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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sailing to San Diego Part IV: Sunset Sailing Past La Jolla

"...Darkness had almost taken over the sky and yet the wind was as sure as ever. In fact with all the attention I gave the boat and with the good steady wind, I felt like I was cruising along at six knots! I could feel the wind in my face and I felt the exhilaration of speeding along with waves breaking white on either side of the boat."  This was the highlight of sailing and passing La Jolla in the evening. But before I had reached San Diego and was only half way down, this is the situation I faced:

I had let the boat sail herself most of the night. Having tied down the tiller I just kept up a real basic watch in the light winds. I finally had fallen asleep around four am and woke up two hours later wondering where I was!

The day started with cerial and evaporated milk which I mixed with water. The milk tin I opened with my big pocket knife that I kept on board. Then I had a banana. That really helped. Some hot chocolate would have been nice, but lacking the ability to heat water put an end to that idea.

 I looked at my map to get a sense of where I was. Using my pencil and fingers, I estimated using the average speed I had traveled throughout the night and the map. My Dead Reckoning position placed me somewhere near Oceanside.

     Off to the left horizon I could see large skyscrapers. I couldn't help but wonder if I hadn't already passed San Diego and was now heading to Mexico! But if that was the case I sure had traveled fast in the night after all. There was quite a difference between Oceanside and San Diego. I suddenly became very confused and fearful thoughts of going into Mexican waters came to mind. The thought of passing San Diego and having to turn around and go back was also a big decision. Suppose I was wrong and went back and it turned out to NOT be San Diego. That would be a waste of two to four hours at the least.
While I was thinking these things I made sure the empty horizon was still empty and then stepped down into the cockpit and grabbed my cell phone out of my shell and attempted to text my wife Janette. I wasn't sure If I was too far out at sea to send a text but after all on the sailing race to Ensenana I had managed to get a few messages through. The texts did go through and these were what they said:

Albion: Goodmorning darling!

Janette: Where r u now?  R u safe?
J: We r @ moms.  Where r u sailing to?

A: Well, I believe I'm near San Diego as I heard them come on Channel 16. I think I see La Jolla Mt. I'm a little unsure yet as I cannot get an exact fix yet.

J: Hi.  Miss u.  Mom just made banana/blueberry bread.  Can u smell it?
J: What else do u see?  How long have u been awake?

A: Yum yum! I'm hungry 4 that! Does Capistrano or Oceanside have large buildings?

J: Oceanside does
J: I love u.

A: Mmm.  I am ready to eat the bread.  I love u 2

A: Just spotted the 2 domes. What r they called? San Onefre?
A: On map there is a dome near La Jolla 2. But two? And one @ San Onefre is not on side of Mountain? San Diego it is?

J: Yes.  U have spotted Dolly Parton.  U r North of Oceanside and Camp Penelton.  B safe.  Love u."

      Seeing San Onefre confirmed my whereabouts. It made me realize that I still had quite a ways to go to San Diego. I was unsure if I could make it by the days end, but I was sure going to try.
    All during the night I couldn't keep my eyes off the bottom of the mast to see how my lower starboard shroud - I had jury rigged - was doing. I had shined my flashlight up on the mast step to see how it was fairing. Now this morning with the morning breeze, I noticed how the mast continued to lean ever so slightly. It was threatening, by small degrees, to break free of the mast step and callapse. That would mean disaster and I knew I would most likely have to call for assistance by the Coast Guard if that happened. That was one of my fears that I tended to not want to think about. So I very carefully kept my eye on the pressure the wind was putting on the mast instead of worrying. And every time the pressure increased significantly and the mast would lean even harder, I turned the tiller slightly to turn the boat on a less stressful tack. I kept this up also during most of the day. But often I laid down to rest a little as I got tired; but only when the wind and tack remained constant and as the boat didn't need my assistance so much.  After a while past San Onofre I could see these big round white bubble like formations on the land a couple miles away which were on the map showing that I was soon approaching Oceanside. I was excited to be in that area. But no matter how hard I looked out at the shoreline even with the binoculars, I couldn't make out anything that looked like the harbor for Oceanside.

    Around 3 or 4 pm I finally came to the tall stack tower off of Carlsbad. Time was going by and much progress would need to be done before the afternoon turned to evening and the winds settled down to a calm or reversed direction after dark. Each evening it seemed almost to be a roll of the dice whether the wind continued after 7pm or a calm would settle on the sea and I would then face an evening rolling around in the windless calms. But this evening would not be a windless evening. 

It started out a little slow and for a whole hour it seemed I was sailing but not gaining any distance as the large stack tower still persisted to stay in generally the SAME spot as 1/2 an hour ago. I couldn't seem to figure out what was going on! For one moment it seemed very obvious that I had passed it and then about 10 minutes later I realized that in fact I had NOT passed it! How could this be so? I was thinking hard as to the reasons for this and could only figure out one reason at the time. Perhaps it was because I was I was subtly heading in a diagnal direction slightly out to sea and as I was going  two steps forward - so to speak - it was only actually one step seaward and one step past the stack tower. In hindsight it also could have been 1/2 step seaward, 1/2 step passed the stack and one step backword with an undercurrent of some kind. But I would think the current is southerly so the current should have been one more step in my favor. But passing the stack seemed like three steps back and one forward! But finally I managed to clear it as the sun was intending to set. I knew I did not have much time. It was at this time I noticed that the wind had picked up slightly. And to help the boat along even more, I pulled on the jib line to tighten the sail - when the wind lightened momentarily. I was furiously passionate in my longing to get to San Diego this evening and anchor before 10 or 11 pm. I didn't know if I could do it, but I was going to give it 100% of my attention and effort to make it happen. And as the sun slowly made its glorious departure - every moment of its beauty was etched in my mind along with the memory of the total concentration I gave to the tiller, the sails and the boat as it sped along over the dark blue waves.

As I held on to the jib line, I could feel the power of the sails pulling on the boat through each wave. The waves would come against the boat either pushing against it or pushing it gently forward. Though there was a general pattern to the waves, there also was an intimacy with each one as each contacted the boat slightly differently. As evening gave way to night and darkness crept firstly over the sky, and then over the water and then into my cockpit, I took every last inch of light the sky could produce to create productive energy within myself to make the journey faster. Surprising, to be sure, was the fact that darkness had almost taken over the sky and yet the wind was as sure as ever. In fact with all the attention I gave the boat and with the good steady wind, I felt like I was cruising along at six knots! I could feel the wind in my face and I felt the exhilaration of speeding along with waves breaking white on either side of the boat. But when my averages were done later on my map, if I did do six knots it was not consistent. Three or four knots showed up as the average. Still I made great time. I measured each section of land in my minds eye seeing how long it took me to reach each. Each section of say, one or two miles, could be seen quite easily at sea with the land creating its own notch of measurement by a section of trees that stood out, or a cliff, or a piece of land jutting out into the ocean. And as I counted off 5-7 miles down the coast, I could see as far as the huge land mass of La Jolla that stuck out by at least a mile into my ocean world. After that darkness seemed to loom. And when I would arrive there my distance to land would shorten by that same distance nearing me to the shore.

And in the time it took me to make 10 miles that day - I made it in half the time that evening. Across the water - now in the twilight - was the darkness of La Jolla Shores with all its trees. To me it was a long stretch of mysterious black seen three miles away on the restless ocean. I was drawn to its loneliness because it looked how I felt: alone, hidden from most of mankind, dreamlike.
And so I passed off each mile finally arriving a mile off the looming land mass of La Jolla. All was dark except the red port, the green starboard light and the white stern lights on my boat. The ocean was a hidden world of waves that I felt but could only see faintly. Sillouttes of their form rose up out of the blackness. Their shadows could be seen in the faint lights from shore. Lights such as street lights or red and green traffic lights were like stars far away. Yet the warmth of human kind could be felt from them.

    From La Jolla I thought it would be only a skip and a jump to the harbor of Mission Bay, San Diego. But it took me a whole hour to just clear its protruding land mass.  From there I then sailed another hour down the long stretch to the opening harbor entrance - which I finally found with my binoculars. There were so many red street lights that competed for my attention that it was so hard to make out the red harbor light that blinked three or four flashes before pausing. I finally found it and was exctatic with joy. However, it should be noted that from 10 pm to 11 the wind had been waning and I knew it would end soon. I was only hoping I could get in the harbor safely first. But all my work to beat the dying wind was in vain. For before I knew it, I was becalmed only a mile from the harbor and now would have to be out at sea all night waiting for favorable winds! Come check out Part V and read what happened after passing La Jolla, the adventure that befell me that night and how I finally made it to San Diego!

Skipper Albie

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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!