Maiden Voyage Misadventures

Day 1: Getting Our Sea Legs

The first 24 hours of our maiden voyage have been nothing short of grueling.

We departed Morro Bay in haste Saturday afternoon after finally identifying a 24-36 hour weather window which looked promising- winds 15-20 knots, dying to 10-20 after midnight, and seas 8-10 feet, subsiding to 6-8 after midnight.

Windy Cayucos Day before leaving

Last minute errands were completed, thanks to some help from our friend Ryan McClay- his gracious offer to chauffer us around after we returned the rental car was greatly appreciated, and very useful as we still needed to pick up a fishing license and hand pump for the dinghy (which Ryan gave us- thanks again Ryan!!)

Fixing the engine on our dinghy “Sea Pickle”

Successful test run

We had a short and sweet goodbye with housemate Melissa & her boyfriend (and our friend) Dana.  We will miss you both- you’d better come visit.  Then we got a shove off for the trip from Cliff Keith & Paul Yeabsley of USCG, Morro Bay.  (Yeabs, thanks for the fishing pole.  Brent loves it.)

Cliff, Brent, & Paul before departure

And so, without much fanfare, we departed… hurrying in hopes of getting the sails up before full dark.  The sun was setting over the water as we said our good-byes to Morro Bay, cracked open the first beer, and headed out past the jetty.

Last view of Station Morro Bay

Preparing to Leave

Bye Morro Bay

And we’re off!

the adventure begins…

The Rock at sunset

Due to the weather forecast, we reefed the mainsail and left the jib furled, just in case the seas and winds did pick up.  We hoisted the mainsail and felt proud of ourselves as we ventured out into the great blue yonder.

Captain Travis at the helm

Thank goodness we reefed the main sheet, too, because pick up the winds did as soon as we got past the breakwater.  The northwest winds were whipping through our hair, and Mindy Lou just stood there shaking.  Our dinner of clam chowder bread bowls sat untouched as the pitch and roll of the seas rocked our little boat, quelling my appetite.

Sea Dog

I was determined not to get seasick.  After washing down 1 Bonine tablet (like Dramamine, for motion sickness) with a ginger ale, I sat back and did my best to act like a grizzled old sailor.  The act didn’t last long- less than an hour- and I found myself green in the gills and close to tears.  The Captain of our fine vessel ordered this deck hand to go below and rest.  And so I did, pausing only to puke my guts out (ginger ale and Bonine too).  Curled up in the fetal position in the aft cabin, I prayed:

“Lord Jesus, Great God, Mighty Universe, please see our family through this adventure.  Please let us travel safely around Point Conception.  Lord of grace, Lord of mercy, thank You for blessing us with this opportunity.  Now just see that we get through it alive.”

As I prayed I heard objects crashing and banging around the cabin.  Apparently we were not as “secure for sea” as we thought.  I had thoughts of trying to secure the cabin, but my body would not let me do anything except lay down, as wave after wave crashed against the boat, wave after wave of nausea washed over me.

After a few hours of fitful rest, I staggered out of the aft cabin and grabbed hold of the companionway stairs, pulling myself up from the bowels of the boat to try to offer a break to Brent.  His voice sounded surprised to see me out of my sick nest, and he asked “Babe, are you ok?”

“I’ll take a turn,” I said.

“What?” he shouted back, barely audible over the wind and waves.  A big wave slammed the side of the boat, sending spray over the starboard quarter and soaking Brent.

“I’LL TAKE A TURN,” I yelled with all the confidence I could muster (which wasn’t much).

“Uh, no, that’s ok.  You don’t look so good.  Just rest, I’ll call you if I need you,” was the reply that came, and I felt relief (and more nausea) wash over me.

I turned to go back to bed, and saw Mindy, in her life vest, legs splayed, tottering back and forth on the chart table.  If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would have been hilarious.  My loyal canine companion, ready to follow me into the night, where the angry seas awaited.  I love my dog.

Not feeling so hot

Long story short, Brent is my hero.  He drove for twelve hours straight in nasty conditions, and at the light of dawn I finally managed to pull myself together enough to get on the helm.  The wild look in his eyes told me that twelve hours, fueled only by saltines and Monsters, had taken a serious toll on him.

After a VERY long night

He only attempted one feeble protest before agreeing that he really needed a short nap.  It took me a few minutes to get my bearings on the helm, and to stop the compass from swinging wildly from 300 degrees to 90.  I managed to rein it in, and keep us on course from 90-120 for 2.5 hours, until the chart plotter and my eyes said we were rounding Point Conception.

Point Conception

Blessed Sunrise

Thank you God, thank you thank you thank you.  My silent prayer of gratitude resonated deeply within me.  The end of this awful night was in sight.  Brent came up from his nap and we checked the charts, attempting to determine the exact location of Cojo Anchorage.

Scared. It’s 5am. Time for me to drive.

Day 2:  From Bad to Worse

Now, let me preface this next part by saying we were not in top form at this point.  Decision making skills were compromised by lack of sleep, and in my case, lack of experience.

Cojo Anchorage did not look like much from a mile offshore.  In fact, it looked just as windy and nasty as it was in the open water, and there was only one big ship at a mooring ball, and a tiny Hobie beached.  It did not look like somewhere we wanted to stop.  The desire to continue on was pressing, and we looked at each other knowingly, with the unspoken question lingering in the air.  Would we stop?  Or would we continue on to Santa Barbara, where we would find safe harbor, showers, and maybe good surf?

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Fuck it.  Let’s just do it,” replied the man I love so much.  I knew this balls-to-the-wall attitude was potentially reckless, but I completely agreed.

Giddy with the thought of land beneath my feet, I felt a surge of energy, despite the now six to eight hours of sailing which now lay ahead of us.  We would be in a slip tonight!

The first two hours were positively glorious.  We made our way towards Gaviota, and the seas died as the sun warmed our bodies and gave us hope.  The winds were favorable, and we killed the engine (finally) and unfurled the jib, feeling like true sailors with only the sound of the waves and Bob Marley playing on the stereo.

I found myself snoozing in the cockpit, and peeked one eye open to see Brent laid back, steering with his foot.  We smiled at each other, stoked to finally be enjoying the trip.

And then the wind stopped.  I mean, it just stopped entirely, and we were left with the sails flapping sadly in the calm air.  The balmy weather became a little too warm, and we began to shed layers of clothing as we looked around for any sign of a breeze.

To the west of us was the wind line- we could see white caps in the water.  Brent assured me that we just needed to get over into that wind, and we would be well on our way again.  Alas, to do so we would have to motor, because we hadn’t even a trace of wind at present.  Sighing, resolute, we turned on the engine and prepared to motor west.  Noticing that the dinghy had made it’s way up to the bow of the boat, I called back to Brent to just move forward towards the starboard side, and he began to do so.

Anyone who knows boats knows the horrible sound of a line wrapping around the shaft of the propellor.  It’s like a sick gurgling sound and then the engine stops.  In our defense, Brent had the line in his hand and we thought it was clear of the prop (obviously), but we were wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The grave nature of the situation dawned on me as Brent literally began pulling on his hair and making a roaring noise of frustration.  The soundtrack to this fateful moment was perfectly ironic- as the situation unfolds, in the background we hear… we all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.  Thank you, Beatles, for pointing out the hilarity in our drama.  My helpful comment to my beloved Captain?

“Well, it’s a good thing we got the unlimited towing coverage.  Maybe we should call Boat US.”

Brent was already in motion, grabbing a knife and his wetsuit, preparing to jump in the water to cut the line.  As he changed out, I wondered out loud what our emergency plan would be if he were hit on the head as the keel of the boat hammered up an down in the waves.

His reponse: “Hail channel 16, identify our vessel, say Mayday, Mayday.”

Great.  Awesome plan.  With that, Brent put on his goggles and descended down the swim ladder into the cold Pacific ocean.  It took all of twenty seconds for him to come back up, and I guessed that this meant it didn’t look so good.  He climbed right back up the swim ladder, shook the water out of his hair and said “Well, babe, it’s a good thing we have sails.”

Okay.  Time to learn to sail.

Somehow, by some mysterious miracle, we managed to sail for about another hour and a half.  I still can’t figure out how Brent got us into the wind, but he did… and then it stopped again.  This time, we waited around for about half an hour before deciding that at this rate we’d be sailing late into the night.  We came to the mutual decision that it was time to be towed.

Three and a half hours later, Randy from Channel Islands Vessel Assist showed up, threw a bridle on Following Seas, and we were on our way once again to Santa Barbara.  The ordeal of the past 24 hour hours was drawing to a close… and Brent was finally able to take a nap.

We arrived in Santa Barbara at 11PM, and hailed Harbor Patrol on the radio.  They set us up with a transient slip, and we said our thank yous and good-byes to Randy, the best tow boat man ever.

Realizing that we were starving, and all the restaurants were closed, we busted out the propane stove and cooked up some Kraft mac n cheese, and made hot dogs.  Dinner fit for champions.  Exhausted, full of nitrites and preservatives, we crashed, falling into the deep slumber of those who are just plain tuckered out.

Up next: Santa Barbara… coming soon

Santa Barbara- Sandspit & Smiles

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