The Home Stretch
It’s hard to describe the feeling I had waking up on the last day of our journey south. Excitement and gratitude that the trip was almost over mixed with a twinge of regret that the adventure was coming to an end. I hadn’t a clue at the time that the situation awaiting us in San Diego, marina life, would be an adventure in a class of it’s own!
The alarm woke us up at five forty five on the last day of our southerly sail. Snuggled in the aft berthing with Brent and Mindy, I delayed rising for a few minutes so that I could appreciate the feeling of being out on the open sea with the ones I love best. Then, one of the ones I love best let loose an uber-stinky fart (we won’t name names, but you can guess who) and all my sentimentality came to a screeching halt.
“Ewwwww GROSS! Come on, let me out of here, let me ouuuuut!” I wailed, scrambling to escape the rotten egg stench that was reaching my nose. Brent laughed and pinned me down with his left arm, holding me hostage, and Mindy crawled up on top of both of us, securing the dog pile. Her tail wagged thwap-thwap-thwap and she scooted closer to my face, timing her doggy kiss perfectly with my protests so that I got a mouth full of Mindy-tongue.
“UGgggghhhh you guys, stop!! Let me out!” I was weak from laughter and had no option but to admit defeat, and accept my spot at the bottom of the dog pile. Triumphant, Brent looked down at me and said “Ok, you can get out. But kiss me first.” Couldn’t (and wouldn’t) argue with those terms, so I gave him a quick kiss and then rolled over the top of the dog pile and fell into the crack between the bed and the settee. I quickly crawled out of the hobbit-hole and rose to my feet, smoothing my hair and regaining my composure.
“Coffee?” I called back to Brent, who was still lounging in bed. “Please,” was his response. I plugged in the Keuring (thankfully, we’d had shore power at this slip in Oceanside) and retrieved two mugs from the galley cupboard. For the hundredth time I thought how much simpler life was, living on the boat. Two coffee mugs, two travel mugs, two wine glasses, two tumblers. That’s it! No deciding which one to use, because the luxury of options has been eliminated.
As the coffee was brewing, I slid back the top of the companionway and one-by-one removed the boards that make up our “front door.” The sky was overcast, and the marine layer left a wet sheen on the cockpit cushions. There was a ratty towel up behind the dodger, so I grabbed it and haphazardly wiped down the seats. The plan was to be leaving the harbor by seven, and I mentally reviewed the tasks we needed to complete in order to leave on time. Uncover the mainsheet, bring out the jib lines, grab the winches and jib cars, check the chart work, secure the cabin-
“EEeeep!” I shrieked. My train of thought was interrupted by a hand reaching up from the porthole and grabbing my ankle. Apparently, Brent was ready for his coffee. I shook him off and went below, swapped out one mug of steaming coffee for an empty one and popped another coffee pod in the brew basket. With perfect timing, I saw Brent’s bed head emerge from our sleep den and the rest of his body followed.
“Can you believe it’s the last day?! We really did it! Nothing but the home stretch now, babe, just eight hours and we’ll be living easy in San Diego.” His sparkling eyes and easy smile never fail to give me butterflies in my stomach.
“We really did it,” I agreed, “now let’s go get showered so we can get out of here before seven.” I threw him a Chewy granola bar, peanut butter and chocolate chip, and snagged an oatmeal raisin flavor for myself. My toiletries bag was sitting on the dinette table, so I grabbed it and my bath towel and threw them up in the cockpit. Mindy heard the distinctive sounds of humans preparing to leave the boat, and came bounding out of the aft cabin with sleepy eyes. She moved seamlessly through her morning stretches, down-dog, then up-dog, then shook it all out and headed straight for the companionway ladder.
Watching Mindy exit the boat is highly entertaining. It took a few tries for her to get the hang of her system, but now she has it down pat. She hops up the first rung, then goes behind the second to a space on top of the engine compartment. From there she jumps up to the third rung, then weaves her body around to climb onto the top step. Words really can’t capture how awesome this is, so I’ll have to post a video one of these days. I grabbed Mindy’s harness and leash, and followed her up the stairs and into the morning light.
A moment later Brent appeared too, and off we went, a family of three, for our morning constitutional. At the top of the gangway were the Oceanside yacht club bathrooms and laundry facilities. It’s a common practice for the laundry rooms at marinas to double as libraries, so while Brent took Mindy to do her business, I snuck into the library and helped myself to a crime thriller, leaving behind a romance novel I’d picked up in Oxnard. Little treats like a new book have a way of really making my day.
We have a system when we both need to shower- we bring Mindy, and one of us walks her while the other showers, then we switch off. That way, Mindy gets a nice long walk, we get clean, and no one feels left out. Now that we are settled in the marina, Mindy just goes with me to the shower. It’s only weird when someone comes into the bathroom as I’m showering, and I bark at them from my stall. No big deal.
Twenty minutes later, Mindy had pooped, the humans had pooped and bathed, and we were ready to get down to the business of leaving the harbor. Back on the boat Brent put on Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream,” and we let the music rile us up as we prepared to make way. Brent finished the chart work and put our course into the plotter as I readied the jib lines and secured the rest of the cabin below. By seven ten we were ready to go. I jumped down on the dock, untied the bow lines and tossed them up onto the deck. Quick like a fox, I dashed to the stern and loosened the line, gave Ol’Girl a good shove and leapt aboard.
“Nice work, swab!” said the Captain, and we cheesed it up with a high-five. I trotted up to the bow and grabbed the side lines, ran them back to the cockpit and then began to ready to main sheet by untying the four ties which keep it secured. Once the sheet was loosed, I sat back to enjoy my warm thermos of coffee as we said our good-byes to Oceanside Harbor. For the first time on our trip, I felt comfortable and confident that we had done everything right and would have an easy last leg of our sail.
Some advice for all sailors: Never feel comfortable and confident. The moment you do, the sailing Gods will smite you and bring you down to size. Brent and I were congratulating ourselves as we motored out past the harbor entrance. Then I saw Brent glance down at the gauges, and watched his face fall from a grin to a furrowed brow in a matter of seconds. Uh-oh, here we go… at the very moment that the thought crossed my mind, Brent sprung into action, calling out to me, “Grab the helm, please, and stay the course two-one-zero. Engine temp is almost to two-twenty, we need to bring the sails up fast!” He then pulled the engine kill handle, and we were no longer motoring, but drifting. We were only perhaps twenty yards outside of the harbor entrance, and a southwesterly breeze and incoming tide meant that unless we got further out rather quickly, we’d be congratulating ourselves on surviving a shipwreck on the rocks before too long.
Brent was in motion, closing the distance from helm to mast in three large steps. A quick check of the mail halyard (the line which raises the mail sail) proved satisfactory, and he was back in a jiff, moving a handle onto the halyard winch and calling back to me “Alright, babe, into the wind please, we’re bringing her up.”
“Aye, Captain, coming to port-” I cranked the helm to the left almost a full turn, then released it back until the wind vane showed us on heading one-eight-zero, straight into the wind. “OK, go!” Hand over hand, Brent pulled the halyard in and I watched the main sheet begin to rise… about halfway up it became too hard to pull by hand, and I watched Brent wrap the line around the self-tailing winch and start to crank the handle as fast as he could. LIttle beads of sweat popped up on his brow, but he didn’t stop until the main sheet was all the way up. There was very little wind, but enough that the sail was not just flapping in the breeze. Taking no time to rest, Brent grabbed the handle from the halyard winch and moved in back onto the starboard winch in the cockpit, then to me: “Grab the furling line, please, I’m bringing out the jib!” Steadying the helm with my right foot, I leaned far to my left and grabbed a red and white line out of a small compartment on the port side of the cockpit.
“Ready!” I replied, and grabbed the helm with my right hand, straightening us out and preparing to adjust our direction according to the billowing of the jib. Brent pulled both lines out a ways, then secured the starboard line on the self-tailing winch and continued pulling the port line. In less than a minute, the jib was unfurled and I began to steer us back to our course. Brent came back to the cockpit, and we took a moment just looking at each other. Almost at the same time, we started to laugh.
“Oh, shit, babe, it’s kind of funny, you know?” I was smiling, but checking back over my shoulder to make sure we weren’t fixing to become fish food. My estimate was that we’d made it out another twenty yards, but weren’t even close to the entrance buoys yet. Brent was smiling too, but I could tell we were not in the clear- not by a longshot.
“Yeah, it’s funny, but we need to get a lot further out. Can you keep us on this heading and just let me know if we seem to be getting close to the rocks?” he asked, and I nodded my head in understanding. He continued, “I need to go below and see what’s going on with the engine. It may take a while, ok? You’re doing great, just stay on this course.” He got out his cell phone and started scrolling through contacts.
“I can do that, no problem,” I said, almost to myself, since Brent was descending the ladder into the cabin as I spoke. Humming a happy tune to myself, I vowed to not turn into monster-bitch regardless of my fears and worries. More than once upon our voyage, I allowed my nervousness to dominate my thoughts, and turned into a nagging pain-in-the-ass-google-know-it-all, throwing out answers to our potential problems in the order of their search-engine appearance on my iPhone. In short, not helpful. Especially considering Brent is a licensed Captain for vessels up to 100 tons, and probably knows more than a random google search, but DEFINITELY knows more than I do.
So this time around, I silently swore to myself that no matter what happened, I would maintain a positive attitude and just enjoy the ride. Pleased with my decision to be a help instead of a hindrance, I thought about how I could be of service. The answer came to me instantly- you could almost see the lightbulb going on above my head.
“Hey, babe,” I yelled down to Brent, “Is it cool if I have a beer? It’s like, eight thirty?”
“YEAH! Good idea, babe, grab me one too, ok?” Sweeeet, I thought, good job, me!
I tightened the wheel lock on the helm, and slipped around to the cooler, unzipping it and fishing around for a moment before I pulled out two ice cold Pacificos. Snuggling them into their coozies, I pried off the caps and then passed one down to Brent before taking a long pull on the other. Es muy delicioso. I returned back to my post and unlocked the helm, steadied Ol’Girl, and went back to humming my happy tune.
At this point in the story I’d like to give a shout out to Ben French and Paul Yeabsley of the United States Coast Guard. Both guys gave us help on this trip that was desperately needed, and without which we may not have arrived safely at our destination. Ben, Paul, thank you both VERY much, and I hope we can repay the favors in years to come.
I can’t go into the details of how Brent solved the problem with the engine overheating. I was busy steering the boat, drinking beers, and humming a happy tune. However, I did get the gist of what happened, and that is this:
The engine on our boat has a two part cooling system. One is raw water, which is pulled from a valve and runs through hoses around the engine. The other is called jacket water, which is generally half coolant and half fresh water that… somehow… keep the engine cool. Hey, look, I’m not a mechanic, alright? This is what I understand. The jacket water hose had a leak, a slow leak that had been losing coolant for most of our trip. By the time we left Oceanside, the jacket water was bone dry, and the engine over heated. With his impressive deductive reasoning skills and handy mechanical ability, Brent managed (with the help of Ben and Paul) to figure this out, and filled the jacket water with fresh, distilled drinking water. He then put all the pieces of the engine back together again, we turned on the motor, and we cheered for joy when she held steady at one hundred and sixty degrees.
By the time it was all fixed up, we had traveled maybe three hundred yards from the harbor entrance. The time was ten thirty A.M. We celebrated our team effort with another beer, then went full throttle and headed for San Diego.
The rest of the day’s motor sail was enjoyable. We knew we would still make it to the marina by sun-down, and we felt accomplished for having solved another major problem- this time, without negativity or arguing. As we sailed, Brent pointed out to me all of his favorite surf spots, and we used the chartplotter and binoculars to speculate where other undiscovered secret spots might be.
It was nearing five thirty by the time we rounded Point Loma, and Mindy and I were both growing weary. She was crossing her legs and doing the potty-dance, and I was a broken record, stuck on the “are we there yet” track. Even the excitement of checking out all the secret surf spots on the point wasn’t enough to keep me distracted for long. I kept going up to the bow, then coming back to the cockpit- back and forth, back and forth, until finally Brent suggested that I just close my eyes, and he would tell me when he needed my help. Grudgingly, I agreed, and laid down to rest for a while.
I had scarcely shut my eyes before he was poking me and saying “Wake up! We’re almost home!” I sat up and looked around, and saw that we were passing the entrance buoy for San Diego Bay. On either side of us, heading the opposite direction, were sailboats. Behind them were hundreds more, as far as the eye could see, all heading out of the harbor. Puzzling over it, I was about to ask Brent why there were so many boats when I remembered that it was Wednesday- Beer Can Races!
Racing is big with sailboat owners. Personally, I don’t really see the attraction, but a lot of people seem to enjoy it. Wednesday is the night that all the yacht clubs and race clubs have their weekly races! I was pleased with myself for figuring it out, but felt really sorry for Brent having to dodge and weave his way through the endless fleet of yachts headed our way.
It took another forty minutes before we were coming up alongside Kona Kai Marina, our new home. Slowly, carefully, Brent piloted our home into her berthing. As we pulled in, we saw a couple making their way over to our slip from the end tie. The man shouted to me, “Throw me the bow line if you want!”
“Thanks!” I replied, and tossed him the line. Brent handed the stern line to the lady of the couple and they pulled us into our slip. “I’m Sean, and this is my wife Karen,” he said. “We live on the end tie over here- are you guys moving in?” I looked at Brent, my faithful Captain, and grinned.
“We are! I’m Amelia, and this is Brent,” I began, “and we are really, really happy to be here! It’s been a long trip.” Up from below came Mindy, barking her little head off. “Oh, and this is Mindy, can’t forget about her,” I said, lifting Mindy down so she could greet our new neighbors. As soon as I set her on the dock, a beautiful yellow lab came loping up from over near the end tie. Karen turned around and said, “Looks like Louie doesn’t want to be left out either- this is our dog, Louie.”
Now as you imagine this scene, play the sappiest song you can imagine in your head. Personally, I’m hearing the Dirty Dancing theme song.
Mindy and Louie’s eyes met, and they started moving towards each other. You could practically see hearts and little birds flying around their head, and stars in their eyes as they gazed at each other. Then, Mindy licked Louie (ahem) you know where. And a great love affair began.
All of the humans laughed, and we thanked our neighbors for so graciously coming to help us moor up. They brushed it off as nothing and invited us to join them for a bottle of wine after we settled in. “We’d love to hear all about your adventure!” they said.
“Sounds great, another night,” I said, “Tonight, we are going to a hotel.” Everybody laughed and we said see you later to the new neighbors. Then, with a big hug and kiss, Brent and I welcomed each other to our new home.
And then we went to La Quinta and ate pizza for dinner.
And the Beginning…
Up Next: Marina Life- Crazy Characters, Communal Bathrooms, and LOTS of parties.
Stay Tuned 🙂Tags: engine problems, good life, liveaboard, marina, oceanside, sailboat, san diego, surf, surfer, surfing, travel, waves