It was about 10:30am and I was losing sight of land, in light of the fog, when I realized I had not checked out any..ANY of the structural integrity.
My heart sank for a few moments as I scrambled from the bow to the stern and back again visually inspecting all of the lines, shrouds, and any other visible bolts that I could find.
From first inspection, everything looked great, however I was over 3 miles from shore and had 27 ahead of me.
Lea, my girlfriend, had gone below to take a nap and I was at the helm alone.
“What on earth had I done?”, I asked myself.
I realized I loved to sail when I met my neighbor and he would take me sailing on his 30′ Catalina over 6 years ago. It was awesome. He was a master sailor and really knew his stuff. He is also pretty fun to hang with, so that made the experience even more enjoyable.
Sailing on a bigger boat brought back memories of spending time on Lasers and Sunfish in Boyscouts as a kid. It also recalled visions of pirates and adventure, as I spent coutnless hours aboard my Dad’s Jon boat in the warm waters of the Cape Fear and making the voyage across the Inner Coastal Waterway around the islands of Wrightsville Beach.
I decided it was something I wanted to pursue more so in December of 2010 I took my Basic Keel Boat certification so that I could charter boats and learned more of the nuances of sailing a small vessel in the ocean. Passing the course was easy, but I knew that in order to really learn, I must get on the water.
I posted ads on Craigslist to crew on any vessel that would have me and I visited a couple of the yacht clubs to post the same on their community boards. I also posted an ad in the Mariner, the local marine rag, for Marina Dey Rey, that I was an able crew member and was keen to help on any vessel.
Not one response. Yet..
My anniversary was coming up and to celebrate, I decided to charter a 25′ Cal Jensen sailboat to take to Catalina Island. The week before, I met with the fellow that owned the boat to take her for a sail. I wanted to make sure that I could single hand it, as Lea wasn’t a sailor and would rely on me to make it happen. Everything was easy and I was able to guide her through the water. We took it out on a Wednesday afternoon. I gave him $150 deposit and shook his hand, looking forward to taking her out over the weekend in a couple weeks.
On a whim, I posted an ad on Craigslist stating that I wanted to purchase a starter boat, not really sure what might come of it.
On the week before our get away, I got a call.
The fellow frantically pleaded with me to come buy his boat. He had bought a sail boat at auction in Long Beach the week before and single handed it (sailed alone) to Marina Del Rey.
But that wasn’t the whole story, I would soon learn.
He didn’t know how to sail. He had no navigation equipment. It was a small craft advisory.
Ultimately, he spent nearly 40 hours at sea, through the night, as he had missed Marina Del Rey on his trip north and sailed through the night. He ripped the main sail and finally resorted to calling the coast guard to help him bring it in the harbor. His plan was to dock it at the public docks and then go find a slip, however he was unable to get a slip due to his own situation, that I am not completley aware of.
In any event, he had 2 days to get it off the public docks (they have a 7 day per month maximum that one is able to keep their boats at the public dock) or else he would have to go back to sea to another marina.
He did not want to go back to the blue water.
I called a dear friend, Don Varner, that I’d been keeping abreast of my goal to buy a boat and he said he wanted in.
He and I met the owner of the vessel on Wednesday afternoon to take her out and it was great. She seemed like she was in great shape. A bit dirty, but everything seemed to work fine. We ran the motor and the engine. We raised all of the sails. We jibbed and tacked. We turned on the lights. I even took a pee in the commode at sea and it flushed like a charm.
We couldn’t believe it when he said his price, but our trust in him grew when we gave him a penance and he handed us the pink slip at 2pm the next day.
Un-fucking-believeable! We were out of our heads.
I was approved for a slip at Bar Harbor in Marina Del Rey, which is an older anchorage. It hasn’t been updated in a many a moon, but it has a pool, and a jacuzzi and a sauna..and its cheap! Trouble was, we couldn’t move the boat in until we had transfered the title at the DMV, which wouldn’t be open until Monday and the boat needed to be moved off the public dock by 12 noon the next day. I was hell bent to be gone shortly after sunrise.
Thursday afternoon was spent casually cleaning her up and packing her with any supplies we thought might belong.
Extra rope. Tupperware. Towels. Basic tools. Binoculars. Flares. VHF Radio. Topped off fuel cans. The list grew and we delivered.
Lea would turn up around 10pm that Thursday night with all kinds of tasty food she had cooked for the trip. Chili from Lauren’s recipe. Spaghetti. Canned goods and water. Snacks and PB & J materials.
We were ready!
With my pal, Don, I was the proud owner of a boat! My first boat :)
She came without a name, so I had no reservation naming her what I wished..
1973 27′ Catalina Sailboat + 4 bags of sails
8hp Mariner Outboard Engine + SeaEV Electric Drive Inboard Motor
Flat screen TV/DVD. Waterproof handheld VHF Radio. Rail BBQ.
Tons of extra ropes. Tons of extra gear.
The list could be really long, but its fair to say we picked up a solid boat with all grades of extras for next to nothing.
We never did get a chance to wash her properly, so on the way out of the marina @ 8am, I stopped at the fuel dock and gave her a spray with the hose they had laying there.
I would then show Lea how to power the electric drive and stear her, should the worst happen and I fall over board. I really think it would suck to lose my balance and take a dive only to watch my boat drift away..
She did great and off to the blue water we went.
We relished in the acquisition for an hour or so! We drank a cup of coffee and bundled up to fight off the crispness of the morning that had rolled in, but that was lifting. Easing into the comfort of the boat, Lea finally decided to take a nap and went below.
About 30 minutes later, I realized I was in the Pacific Ocean and had not looked over any of the important stuff on this vessel. Sure, it looked good and showed well, but could she sail? Was she fit to travel 30 miles?
I found solace in knowing that while she had suffered a ripped main sail (it was replaced), she did carry the previous owner in a Small Craft Advisory nearly 200 miles with no other damage. The seas were also calm and I knew how to use the radio, should the unthinkable transpire.
I relaxed. Then I relaxed some more. Then I relaxed even more.
It was glorious.
Words can not articulate the experience.
She, the sea, does what she wants, at her will. I had tools of course, to take advantage of her gifts ~ the current, the sun, and the wind, but I must say that the Dolphins that were swimming along beside and around and underneath our boat are a bit better equipped to work with her force. It was and is a humbling experience.
I sailed on.
The wind died a bit toward the middle of the morning, thus we motor sailed most of the way, but all in all, Delphyne did nearly her hull speed at 6 knots. We made the 30 mile passage in 5 hours flat.
After radioing Two Harbors to be assigned a mooring, we nailed it on the first try and were rocking gently in the calm waters of 4th of July Cove 30 minutes later.
We cracked a beer and enjoyed a sandwich.
Life is good!
Then it got better.
The cove was relatively empty, apart from a handful of other boats spaced generously about the cove, however dinghy after dinghy started bringing jolly folks to the yacht club just beyond the stern of our ship. Then the shore boat brought a whole gang of folks to the party.
Then, “Pilot Skiff”, responsibly carried prize cargo to dock and as she passed, the maiden of the ship casually asked, “Are you guys alone? Would you like to come to my wedding tomorrow?”
Uhh. Yeah. We’ll come to your wedding. We’ll eat your yummy food and dance to fabulous music and embrace in the joy of a wedding.
However, this would be no ordinary wedding..
We accepted and the bride to be instructed us to be there at 2:30pm in order to celebrate the entire event.
We rested and ate and enjoyed the silence of the sea. Lea and I felt at peace with the world. Its a bit strange the way it feels to be encapsulated in a ship, where one’s bed is nearly at the water line. For us it felt like home.
I tossed a bit, but got a good nights sleep.
At sun up, I was ready!
I made a pot of coffee using a tea pot and the BBQ Grill, scrambled some eggs and fried some sausage, and heated up some black beans for good measure. It was a proper breakfast indeed and Aaron was happy. I then called for the shore boat and he promptly picked me up, such that I could fuel up my outboard and take the small bit of trash I’d accumulated to shore. I smiled my way through the little village of Two Harbors and bought a few staples from the Camp Store.
Back on the boat, I had a sandwich, read for a bit and fell into a nap. Wonderful!
I awoke to Lea looking hot in a leotard top and jeans with striking eye makeup.
“What’s gotten into you? Why so fancy?”
“It’s a pirate wedding and they said to dress the part..”
I did my best with a a pair of Carhartds, a plaid shirt and one of hers on my head, plus a bit of eyeliner for authenticity and off to the island we went. Yes, we were under dressed, alas, they prepared for ordinaries like us and before we got off the gangplank to get on solid ground someone pointed out the costume tent. Much to our delight and surprise, inside we would find everything we needed. In walked normal people and out walked bonafide pirates!
Up the rest of the dock structure we would meet others from the party and exchange “Arrrrgggggg!!” and “Behold! A fellow scallywag!!!” or “Arrrr Beee Darrrrr”. It was great..
But we couldn’t quite figure it out. Why was everyone sooo piratey??
Aaron – “So how did you make your way to the wedding party?”
Anyone I didnt know – “LARPING”
Aaron’s face – “???”
After much prodding, which took them disgruntily away from the moment:
A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters’ actions. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world, while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules, or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.
This entire group…everyone, were LARPers. Amazing! The night just took a new turn and it was now on!
The father, dressed as the Dread Pirate Robert’s ‘The Princess Bride’, married the couple. Cannon’s punctuated the ceremony. Mead and merriment was to be had by all. Late into the evening we made our way back to Delphyne a little drunk and very happy with life. We dance alone on the bow of the boat. We drank more wine. We went to sleep..well, I’m leaving out some parts, but you get the idea. It was grand!
Sunlight would wake us and again, I was ready for the high seas..and she was ready for me. I left our mooring in haste to find 25 knot winds and 3-5 foot seas, outside the protected harbor. 30 minutes later I would discover that the wind was to much for my old sails and I was developing a a large lateral tear in the middle of my Genoa (head sail). It must be changed.
“Lea, I’m powering up the engine. Take the helm and keep us pointed into the wind. I’m going aboard the deck to change the sail.”
She did a fantastic job while I took the genoa off, stowed it, and replaced it with a storm job. Everything was just right and as I took my seat at the helm ready to trim the sails, we stopped moving forward.
Turns out, that just before I took the helm, the port side sheet (line that controls the job) had fallen overboard and gotten entangled in my prop.
Not a very good situation. I was 50 meters from the rocks, unable to sail away in light of my controlling lines around my prop and unable to motor away in light of the same.
Lesson learned: keep lines inside the boat
I called the harbor patrol and they were there in no time flat. Quickly gave me a tow back to the calm waters of the cove, and even called upon an old friend that was diving nearby to give me a hand to untangle my lines. 15 minutes later we were all good, but ready for a beer none the less.
This particular cove was completely empty and we enjoyed the silence.
The day would pass slow as ever and a solid sleep would follow.
The following morning I was ready for the sea and anything she would throw at me. Everything, and I mean everything, stowed. Storm jib hanked on. Life vests on. Radio in pocket. I wasn’t taking any chances.
Seems like the sea knows these things and this time she wasn’t quite so angry. It was hot and beautiful. I sailed without motor and 7 hours later we were back in Marina Del Rey.
I’ve sailed her in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. With lots of friends and alone. With only by what I see and only by instruments and a compass. Motored around the harbor and tacked 12 times to get out. Done man over board maneuvers at sea.
I am completely fascinated.
I told my parents that I intended to sail around this globe in about 3 years about a year ago, so as far as I am concerned, I am on schedule.
I’ve been fortunate to sail aboard Deerfoot II, a 74′ Sloop, with Stanley Dashew. He’s an inspirational man, both in business and at sea and the boat has circumnavigated the globe a number of times.
I’ve been invited to crew on a race boat. A ridiculous race boat! The Wednesday night sailing series sails out of the California Yacht Club and is a ton of fun. I have to work my ass off and bring beer..tough life.
Bravura is a 44′ Farr. She’s fast as hell sailing into weather (toward the wind) and usually takes a crew of 10. Given a rank just above whale shit, I usually get stuck grinding (manning the wenches). I couldn’t be happier. The nuances of sail trimming and navigation I am learning being on a boat that wins if we can sail a 1/2, a 1/4, a 1/10th of a knot faster than the next guy is amazing.
As I write this, I am preparing to crew a 54′ Hunter to La Paz, Mexico in 3 days time. From what I understand, the sail is a dream. Sailing downhill (wind at one’s back) the whole way with warm water and awesome fishing. And I get paid to do it. I can’t believe it.
I never really saw it coming and certainly not so fast. However, I am learning to know myself a bit better these days and the wilderness and fairness of the sea is something that I resonate with very well. I am committing myself to becoming a student of her tools.
I look forward to sharing my boat with those close to me and can’t wait to get on the water again soon.
“If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. If it happens to be an auxiliary cruising boat, it is without question the most compact and ingenious arrangement for living ever devised by the restless mind of man–a home that is stable without being stationary, shaped less like a box than like a fish or a girl, and in which the homeowner can remove his daily affairs as far from shore as he has the nerve to take them, close hauled or running free–parlor, bedroom, and bath, suspended and alive.”