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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sailing to San Diego Part III. Passing Avalon by Night

That evening as I rowed my dinghy over the teal green sea I enjoyed looking down, down into its clear mysterious depths. I slowly arrived back at my boat. As I climbed up over the four foot sides of the boat, and then proceeded to set my things down in the cockpit, I looked out to sea just in time to see a glorious sunset. I looked up at my pirate flag and saw the wind blowing it steadily and so having had lots of rest during the day, I decided that with the wind being strong and myself feeling well, I would venture out tonight for San Diego. As I got some food from a tin ready to eat, my mind was still racing in thought. The night would be upon me soon and so I would have to act fast so as to at least be able to clear the harbor with some wind.

As I ate more of the delicious canned peaches, I then began to think hard upon the best method of raising anchor and realized that having no engine, I would have to raise one anchor, then raise the jib sail, raise the main anchor and then the main sail very quickly all in very strict order and with as much preciseness as possible, for a big mistake could end up getting me in trouble at the least and end up washing my boat on the rocks at worst!

    So that is what I did and when my hands started undoing the halyard line (rope) that raised the large mainsail, I began to feel very stressed and couldn't seem to do it skillfuly as I usually do. But I managed nevertheless, and pulled hard on the mainsail. It stopped half way up and I about had a heart attack (you know how I felt). I suddenly noticed that one rope line was still holding the sail leashed up to its resting place on the boom and I jumped down into the cockpit with urgency and unleashed it quickly. I then looked out at the water and noticed the jib sail was pulling the boat in the right direction and then ran back up on deck pulling the mainsail up as soon as was humanly possible. With it up, I soon felt the boat make it's way steadily out and head upwind in the channel between the other boats. I felt mostly relieved. Now if only the wind would hold to get out safetly! It did, but sometimes with a little difficulty tacking; and in half an hour I was sailing away from the dying sunset, away from the little island a mile from shore, and dangerously between another island and the rocky Catalina shore. I say 'dangerous' as I was afraid the island would block the wind and the tide would wash me up on the rocks. I had little choice in the decision as this was the best, safest and fastest route (at least it could be argued). But the wind did not get blocked and instead seemed to funnel right around it getting me out and away safely to sea.


 In fact the wind had really picked up out here a mile from shore and I was really 'clipping along at a fast pace (at least 6 knots I recorded in my log). The waves this evening were about four foot running with speed up to my boat. The waves would appear like they wanted to crash aboard but then just as you thought they might hit, the stern of the boat would lift up and they would pass under pushing the boat with great speed through the water. What with the wind and the waves pushing so hard the boat was really going fast! I had to really hold on to the tiller and watch as the waves came from behind and make sure that they didn't do any mischief. The wind too, as it was just waiting for me to mess up so it could jibe the boom really hard to the other side. But I was wide awake and watching. About a mile away, I could see the dark shore of Catalina passing by with each wave. Tonight the moon shone a brilliant yellow and made the water sparkle. It was such an amazing night. I had imagined it so much differently - mostly many fearful thoughts of being stuck out at sea on a dark night without much wind and having a long way ahead of me going all the way to San Diego. But thankfully my fears were not validated. Only the strong wind gave me any concern as it was giving me trouble. But as soon as I let out the main sail all the way, it settled into a manageable position and sped me quickly on toward Avalon - ten miles away.

I was quite surprised when I suddenly noticed some very bright lights far away on the island (now about 5 miles off) and began to wonder what area that could possibly be. I then realized that the island had a large cliff on the southerly end and that it appeared very familiar. Familiar like the end of Catalina island: Avalon itself.
"No!" I said to myself. There's no way I've arrived here so soon! It was at least ten miles down the coast and I had only been sailing for a couple hours. Well I had been going quiet fast - at least 5 knots an hour to get here so soon. I couldn't believe it. But there it was in a perfect silloutte. There Avalon lie for sure - wrapped in mystery from sea. I wondered how I had at first not realized it was Avalon, because everything about it now gave it away. Even a boat passing mine did as well. For where do you suppose they were heading for after having just come across the channel - Avalon.

I can't quite express the feeling of being alone out amidst the dark ocean waves at night passing the sillouette of Catalina many miles to the West; the lights of Avalon shining warm and cheerily to me as if waving "hello!" My boat pressed on with the wind driving it and as if waving back "Goodbuy! We're on our way alone to San Diego. Say a prayer for our safety!"

An hour or so later away from Catalina - it now being a smaller black sillouette on the horizon, the wind suddenly and completely died. It was now around 11:00 pm. "Oh no!" I groaned to myself with a touch of fear. Fearful because I was somewhat near the shipping lanes. Fearful also of a passing ship on the way to Avalon not seeing me -though I turned on my navigation lights anytime a boat or ship was in sight. So some of my fear was groundless. But still the unknown fears and thoughts of being out at sea without wind had finally begun to unfold. The sails flopped lifeless. Without the pressure in the sails the boat lost its speed and angle beating through the waves. Now the waves had complete riegn over the boat and it bounced to this side and then that making the sails and the boom swing dangerously from side to side nearly hitting me in the head! Besides this the noise from the sails cracking, the boat rocking and the boom swinging was truly a nightmare! Sometimes the boat would rock so violently that the angles of sight were dramatically different than moments before. One moment I would be viewing the sea and waves, the next the sky and moon. At first I felt overwhelmed and wondered what to do first. The only thing that I could think of was to take the main sail down to stop that awful cracking sound and then set the boom in its hanger so it wouldl stay still.
With the rocking it made it a bit like playing dodge ball or some other interesting sport that kept you on your toes. One wrong move and I would bump into something, bruising my shin or elbow or knee.  With difficulty I brought the mainsail down and then with it done realized that the main halyard had swung around the mast and got messed up and tangled somehow just like on the night arriving at Two Harbors. But this time there was no land to fix the messed up rope. So I fiddled with it for fifteen minutes just hoping to figure out how it got so tangled. Finally I got the long 'man overboard pole' and 'fished' it out from the mess it was in up the mast. When that was done, I tried to relax but it was still emotionally draining and all I could think was 'how long was this going to continue?'

    At some point the boat caught a newborn wind at a perfect angle and actually stayed on course without my help. And so I  actually got to rest for two hours without interruption which really helped me out tremendously. I almost felt like I had rested all night. But the key word here is 'almost' as I was still tired but I felt comparably very much better. I awoke to the beauty of the morning just before sunrise. A large fog bank stood more in toward land. It was 6:30 am and I was thankful I wasn't caught in that.

-Skipper Albie

PS: Come back soon to see what happens next after passing Avalon. Thanks for your comments! :-)

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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After Sailing - bonfire on the beach!
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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!