We sailed from Half Moon Bay to Marina del Rey (Los Angeles) in 36 hours, although little of that was pure sailing. Some things didn’t work, the sleep schedules were a little tough to get used to, we both had some intestinal discomfort, and I saw the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And then we faced the modern world again, which is always somewhat of a shock even after only three days. So, a typical shakedown.
The Beast: Gear Issues
We left with our refrigerator turned into an ice box until we have time to fix it. We also knew that we still had to finish rigging the reefing lines – which allow you to reduce sail while underway. As it turned out we never saw enough wind that this would matter, but it would be irresponsible not to have this as an option. So we did this in the first hour out of Half Moon Bay. We also put the solar panels back up – they extend like wings from either side of the boat and were too wide for the slip we had been in. That was a pain and I’d like to find an easier way to raise and lower those things.
We also had not been able to test radio reception because it is never good inside a marina, but it was an ideal task for at sea. And, sure enough, our SSB / Ham radio, a barely used ICOM M-802 proved not to be able to transmit at sea. I suspect there is an antenna or grounding issue – we moved the radio, tuner, and modem from our old boat so the installation we did may have an error or the existing ground plane may not be connected well. We need this radio for receiving weather updates as well as for position reports and emails that are important for our families and friends. Also the chart of our position displayed on this site is updated using the radio. Many sailors these days use satellite phones for these functions, but we like our system and it’s nearly free to use ($275 a year for the sailmail access but otherwise free).
We also wanted to set up our wind vane self-steering, but the light variable winds from behind us made this unlikely to be successful so we used AutoPilot the whole way – which worked beautifully. However to save energy we would like to have the option of the wind vane so we will look at this next time we have a decent blow.
My night watch starts at midnight and continues until 5 am when Jon takes over. The boat was rolling a lot due to the wind angle (deep reach to dead run: wind behind us) and the lightness of the winds. Stronger winds drive you through the waves better, lighter winds leave you at the waves’ mercy. So by the second night we were short on sleep and a wee bit short on tempers. Neither of us were feeling well or eating much – lower GI stuff rather than seasickness. My careful provisioning and meal plan had been abandoned for oatmeal in the morning and snacks other hours. So as I started my shift I was in a bit of a low spot. I didn’t want to eat, I was cold, there was no wind. No moon, although the stars were magnificent and the Orionid meteor shower was doing its best to entertain me. I sat under the dodger, gazing at the waves and the sky and started noticing the phosphorescence glowing as the wavelets broke on either side of the boat.
Gradually I noticed the the glowing wave tops were acting in a most unseemly fashion, no longer just splashing as they broke, but making magnificent curls and loops under the water. I stood up to see better. From 30 yards away I saw a ball of glowing foam zooming towards me, closer, closer, and then a little “phuhh” sound and it disappeared under the boat. Dolphins! Within moments there were a couple dozen dolphin foam trails diving, leaping and glowing. I could barely see the bodies themselves – the occasional dark gleam of skin or knife of fin – but the disturbed water around their swiftly swimming bodies gave off a magnificent diffuse glow. Was it more like the glowing air in front of a meteor, or the globe of light around a Disney fairy? The glow moved like a meteor with muscle and power but the faintness of the glow made it ethereal, hard to see exactly. They played and puffed their human-sounding breaths and glowed faintly in the starlight. Smaller trails of bait fish also zoomed away from the boat – I guess it was dinner time for dolphins. I forgot to breathe, broke our rules about going forward at night, and sat on the cabin top transfixed until they gradually melted away in the night. Ok, I thought, my life is complete.
On the third day around noon we pulled into Marina del Rey to deal with our gear issues and get some needed rest. And showers – more valuable than gold. We had wanted to stop the previous afternoon in the Channel Islands, but the timing was wrong – we didn’t want to anchor in an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark – and the lack of services on those islands would not allow us to get help with the issues. So we plowed on towards Los Angeles and hoped our families were not too worried. We were able to get some cell signal on that second night out so I left some 2 am emails as to our plans.
… at these moments I feel my life is somehow complete and satisfying. This is why I sail
So here we are, in 92 degrees in the shade, on the edge of a lovely park on the transient dock at Marina del Rey, home to 6000 yachts. This place is huge, comprised of 23 marinas and anchorages and all the services you could dream of. Within hours of landing I had secured potential appointments from two outfits for my three issues – a minor Raymarine heading issue, the radio issue, and the refrigerator repair guy. Both services will try to come today, Friday, but otherwise will come Monday. They both let me know they were already booked for both days but would try to fit me in. It will be interesting to see what happens. The transient dock is only good for 7 days out of 30, so we can’t stay past Wednesday anyway.
After making appointments we took Zoë for a walk, paid our moorage, took showers, and did our shopping. West Marine, a grocery store that sold ice, and a California Pizza Kitchen were all within walking distance, along with, as far as I could tell, every other retail establishment known to man or woman. Coming from the sea it all looked new and impermanent, a little too glitzy to be real. But boy was the pizza great, the beer transcendent, and the Spicy Asian Cauliflower a revelation. Let it be known that the final ages of man on earth had its perks!
Then home early to bed. Well fed, clean, able to sleep when tired, at these moments I feel my life is somehow complete and satisfying. This is why I sail, the experiences are so vivid and demanding that you are left with a fullness that rarely happens in daily life on land.