“and the tiny ship was tossed…if not for the courage of the fearless crew…”

10 September 2017

Sea foam as we are leaving Morro Rock.

It was eerily quiet leaving the volcanic plug known as Morro Rock and Morro Bay.  Just a few slow thudding flaps of the pelicans, the mommy otters have hidden with their babies.  The sea foam coming in from the Pacific is tan and brown, and thick like baked meringue.  Bella seemingly cuts through it easily, pushing it away long enough for the boat to pass before it begins closing back in. The radar indicated something ahead.  We looked and looked again . Nothing appeared on the AIS (commercial and many private ships broadcast on AIS for identification) and that was disconcerting.  We continued to look as the radar was inconsistent but trustworthy.  At least a few miles off shore, in the morning fog, were five paddle type fishing boats, each with a single fisherman. As they would fall behind and below a wave peak, the radar would lose sight of them but pick them up again when they crested the wave.  These guys had to be committed to fishing to be this far offshore and in the fog, in something that is paddled. The fog continued to battle ruling the day.  It sneaks closer and then retreats multiple times during the day.  It isn’t cold outside and the wind isn’t blowing. It is not that wetness like the earlier passages down, where it rains inside the protective canvas.  It’s very quiet except the drone of the motor as we attempt to move closer to our destination. Our next overnight will happen.  

Our silent travel companions.

I am hoping to have another wonderful dolphin encounter.  The whales have now made me a bit nervous as so plentiful and I have heard “the stories” of boats colliding with whales. Neither are happy with the outcome, I might add.  No whales that we could hear or see. John always seems to hear them before seeing them.  Usually before I do.  It was difficult to see with the ever changing fog but finally I heard a splash behind me.  John saw it.  “Run up to the front!”  John orders! Wait, I have to grab my phone (camera), as I trip over my own feet in my haste.  John always finds something to adjust, fix, fine tune, you name it. He is more focused on the boat running smoothly.   I keep the mantra “it’s a boat” in my head but my heart is in seeing something else alive out here!  We had a quick visit of a couple of Dall’s porpoise again.  Those are always fun! These did not stay long.  Well, not long enough to suit me I guess.  A little while later, off in the distance another pod of Pacific White Side dolphin appeared.  Again, not close enough to play in the bow wake but at least gave us some pleasure from afar.  I am sure the whales were out there somewhere too. Maybe.  Unless they don’t like fog either.  I wouldn’t blame them. 

The sun tried it’s hardest to come out all day.

30-36 hours to Los Angeles.  The City of Angels.  We just didn’t know that we have to go through hell to get to the angels.  The sun tried its darnedest to break through the foggy coating of the day but in the end, it just couldn’t quite do it.  When does the fog end?!?!  Past Santa Barbara they say.  I have to trust that “they” know this area better than I.  After all, I grew up in a land locked state.  As the day moved on, we planned for our dinner.  We eat okay. Nothing fancy but then we never really have unless it was socially with friends. John is quite happy with Ramen.  A throw back to my college days that I will pass on unless the moment is right.  Nice to know you can still get the same ramen noodles for ten cents a pack.  Of course, it is probably that old too and no one would know it. I suspect that twinkles and ramen have much in common in the way of preservatives.  Soup and sandwiches are often a meal.  We do snack a lot, and I find I am snacking healthier, if you call Brie Cheese healthy.  I am like that preschooler with an apple and cheese.  Instead of a pasteurized skim mozzarella cheese stick, it is slices of brie on my apple slices.

the only photo I dared to take my phone out of the Faraday cage (oven).

Normally, I take my “nap” around 2000 (8 pm) until midnight. I often wake at 2300 or 2330 to make hot tea, maybe a snack, and get all bundled up in my “foulies”.  Foulies consists of getting dressed as if I were going to go snowmobiling in the mountains.  Galoshes, waterproof, insulated bibs, and a waterproof, insulated coat that my mom would have been proud of- covering past the hips.  I prefer a head band with ear coverings over a hat. My mittens, however, are painfully inadequate.  No, the chemical hand warmers don’t help the mittens from absorbing moisture. That won’t matter tonight.  It seems that Mother Nature has different plans for tonight.  The wind picked up substantially.  We use Predictwind which is mostly accurate. Sailors often use several models to plan their routes with.  John is fairly adept at following safe weather guidelines.  Wind is normally good for a sailboat. It was coming from the stern and we do not the fore and aft guides for wing on wing set up yet. Not that it would matter, the gusts were upwards of 35kn and not consistent from either side of the stern. The sea state was capricious. The waves were moving with Bella so we had the appearance of “surfing” the waves and moving rather quickly.  John hauled in the sail except the main which was reefed, to keep some balance to the boat and the passage.  Then we both heard it.  I asked out loud, “what was that rumble?”.  “Airplanes” he thought out loud but was more like wishful thinking. Before long, the nature of the rumbling became very clear.  The older radar system that we have showed a changing glob of blackness that moved to and fro and was not the usual ship pattern!  It was HUGE and coming straight for us! Like a ghost, it hovered in front of us, growing larger in size as it approached us until finally it devoured us.   An old story recites a young child smiling in a lightning storm.  When asked why, the child replied the flash was from God’s camera and  the child was smiling for the photo.  At this point, if I could have called for Uber or Lyft, I would have! Especially if I knew this  would be an eight hour photo shoot that night.  Once again, neither of us rested longer than an hour during the entire night, as the cockpit was lit up like daylight every minute or so.  The intensity and brightness was literally momentarily blinding. Our pupils couldn’t dilate quickly enough before another crack would light up the sky…..and our cockpit.  Old mandates such as staying away from tall objects, stay away from metal buildings, stay away from water during a lightening storm ran through my head with each blast of light.  Really? Really?  Here I am, surfing 1500ft waters with a 65 foot  metal pole and steel cables and bars around me.  If this isn’t the biggest test of faith.  Off go most of the electronics, everything in to the oven as a faraday cage.  While I worried about the lightening, John worried about the winds and the waves.  I didn’t have enough worry left over to cover that area.  I vaguely recall that he said we had greater risk of [something] than we did of lightening strike.  I didn’t hear what that something was as the thunder crack drowned it out.  For anything unrelated to lightening, I had the mantra of “trust the boat”.  Oddly enough, in spite of my heightened anxiety, the boat took the following seas, and the wind gusts from either side with no apparent pattern, quite well.  He managed the traveler and main sail one direction, soon the other, and back again.  He made it look rather uncomplicated. This went on for eight hours, covering both of our watches. When things finally settled and he opted to take a quick nap around 0400, I snuck my phone out to capture the night of madness.  A photo now seemed pointless.  At this point, the less threatening storms seemed to be ahead of us moving inland.  Well, and behind us too. The lightening was no longer every one to two minutes an immediately above us. Could a stray strike still be above us?  Sure, and that would be an awful ending for what we endured.   I felt like I needed something to prove we went through this.  I felt like I had lived the intro to Gilligan’s Island!

11 September 2017

I had to laugh when the USCG called out the weather report as “isolated thunderstorms”.  I think we found every darn one of them.  Once we had cell phone coverage, we were able to see that San Francisco, San Jose, and other areas of California were getting knocked about by unusual high winds and lightening storms that they have not experienced in many, many years.  I know that storm(s) well as it was the storm(s) that we experienced through the night!  The sea state is gentle now and the sun has taken its rightful place in the sky and doing a fabulous job.   We were now past Santa Barbara.  Go figure.

Sshhhh…. don’t scare it away- it’s called “the sun!”
Under the bow.
By the bow.
It’s a race!

I like to imagine that we suffered so much that the dolphins we encountered next were some sore of apology from Mother Nature.  Sailing lore has it that having dolphins swim along with your boat is good luck.  Bella indeed, was filled with luck as we had these happy creatures entertain us.  I am not boasting nor bored when I say there came a point when I no longer took a camera up with me but simply watched them.  Then again, maybe I was too tired.

Here’s what we are looking for.  Blue sky! Blue water! Warm air!

The excitement of the dolphins was enough to take away the stress of the previous night’s storm but not the fatigue.  We texted our friend, Tony, to let him know we were on target for a 1600 arrival.  He graciously helped us procure a slip in his marina, just a few slips away from his beautiful Hans Christian 39 MKII.   He offered to meet us at Port of Call restaurant dock so he could lead us into this menagerie of obfuscated marinas and to our slip and eventual rest.  So onward- to the City of Angels!

Click on the Dolphins at the bow for a quick 15 second video!

Dolphins at the bow

4 thoughts on ““and the tiny ship was tossed…if not for the courage of the fearless crew…””

  1. What a stressful night! I’ll remind Mike to look for ‘isolated thunderstorms’ before we head down! Lightening is the one thing that scares the crap out of me. We had one thunderstorm ‘out there’ and like you, everything went into the oven with a wish and a prayer. I’m looking forward to being south of Santa Barbara!

  2. Holy Toledo, you told us about it when you called but I think reading the facts is even more scary. I know you’ve said you aren’t to set sail on a Friday but me thinks perhaps Wed., would be better than Thurs., as you seem to continually hit bad stuff out there when you are in the night time sailing. How do those fisherman survive when all they have are much smaller than Bella and not equipped as well. I’m guessing there are times you wish that oven was large enough to house Debbie along with the electronics. Yes, I keep praying for you as undoubtedly you will need it in your adventures. God Bless!

    1. Ha ha ha…I guess we should have had a “mom” alert on that post! Indeed, sailor lore says not to set sail on Friday, any other day depends upon weather. We did have some good nights! And yes, a faraday cage for me too would be nice!

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