Monday, August 18, 2003

Blowing like stink!

August 18, 2003 Originally posted on Sailbillabong

Santa Cruz Island, California

We've done it!  Our first overnight trip.  Wait, let me back up for a moment.  I should be clear that I use the term "first" rather vaguely.  What I really mean is "first on Billabong".  I just thought I should settle that before causing any undo anguish to our families!  Now back to the trip ...

Under Sail to Smuggler's Cove

On Saturday (the 16th) Captain Chris and Chef Roddick (side bar on our "titles" later), headed out to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island.  The man on the radio was announcing a lovely 10-15 knot northerly wind.  Two friends of ours, on Panacea, were sailing out with us.  We easily motored out of the harbor, raised our main sail, and cleared the break water.  It didn't take long before Chris decided to reef the main (the seas were swelling and we were beating into the wind, which was blowing at more then the 15 knots advertised).  The first reef was rather painless, although I could see Chris mentally adding to his to-do list with every task he performed.

Unfortunately our friends on Panacea were without their main sail battens and had to turn back.  We sailed around each other for a bit, while Panacea's captain took some snap shots of Billabong (as soon as we get the prints we'll post a few for you).  I'm hoping that one of the pictures will be worthy of the business card we are trying to make for Billabong (good for exchanging with those we meet during our travels).

As we neared "windy lane"  Chris was reading off the true wind speed ... 16 knots ... 19 knots .. 20 knots .. 25 knots!!!  As we looked around Chris asked, "Our we the only boat out here?".  We were.  Now with two reefs in, beating to weather at 25+ knots, and trying to "ride" the waves as to avoid slamming the hull with each one, Chris posed the question, "Should we keep going or turn back?".  We kept going.

The 'fly on the wall' would've gotten a few good laughs.  First, apparently one of the galley latches was not fully latched in (or perhaps I really did forget it all together and I'm just in denial), so as Billabong heeled onto her port side an extremely loud BAM-BANG-CRASH came from below.  The sliding galley drawers (contained within the supposedly latched cupboard) went shooting across the boat.  Plates, bowls, knives, forks, etc were spewed across the floor.  Unfortunately this resulted in a few scratches to our lovely teak floors.

Next, Chris realized that our main port (at the center of the boat) was still open.  We hadn't bothered fully closing or locking down the hatches because we were expecting a nice, relaxing sail.  Chris went down below to close the port, when I remembered that while we had shut the two forward ports, we hadn't locked him.  He came back from latching down the forward ports a bit more then damp (and as you can imagine, if Chris was damp, then so was the forward cabin ... i.e. our bed!).  About an hour later, I was down below (who knows why since I get seasick and being below is the worst when one is feeling ill), when I noticed that our main port, the one Chris had originally gone below to close, was open.  Luckily only a few sprays of water had gotten into the boat.  Apparently in the process of closing the two front hatches, Chris forgot about his original task.

And the fun doesn't end there!  At some point, Chris decided to check out if his navigation software was working.  So I took the helm.  In these conditions we wanted to avoid going South (otherwise we wouldn't be able to get back up North to hit Santa Cruz), however we also didn't want to head up too much, as to avoid 'stalling'.  The point being, sail trim was critical.  I'm sitting on the starboard side of the boat.  We are beating on a starboard tack.   The jib  begins to luff just a small bit.  I slightly correct the direction of the boat.  The sail is luffing more.  I correct more.  The sail luffs more.  I forcefully correct even more.  I'm thinking, "UGH!  What the hell is going on?".  At the same moment, Chris comes running up from below, "damn software says we are going ...", and then he turns wild eyed to me and that's when it hits!  I'm turning us the wrong way ... South!

At Smugglers

Let me replay the situation so that you could understand how this might happen.  Mind, "Hmm, the sail is luffing, I need to ease us up a bit more".  Eyes, "Yes, we need to go that-a-way [looking right]".  Head agrees and turns to look up (starboard/right) along with Eyes.  Left arm, which is holding the wheel, "Sounds good, I'll just push the wheel away from me a wee bit" [i.e. this would be the equivalent of turning the wheel to the left].  Mind, "Uh oh, more luff, I really need to head up more!".  Head & Eyes agreeing both turn to starboard.  Left arm, "Yep, I'll just add a bit more force this time", still pushing the wheel away.  Mind, now panicking, "Chris is going to kill me, way too much luff, I've got to fix this before he comes back up".  As usual, head and eyes agree and look to the right.  Left arm, "I'm strong, I'll just give her a real good push and put us back on course!".  Mind [at about the time Chris is running a-top to see why his software says we are going south when he specifically told me not to go that way], "Oh shit!  Why am I pushing the wheel, I'm going the wrong $!%@-ing way!".

Apparently there was some kind of disconnection between my mind and body parts.  Somehow I knew what I needed to do, but could not figure out that my actions were not following suit!  Luckily, we corrected the situation quite quickly (the whole thing probably took less then one or two minutes, even if it felt like days).  And the navigation software works after all!!!

After four hours of going to weather we entered Smugglers Cove.  We had three reefs in the main (the third reef drew blood from Chris, which was now smeared on our bean bag, two winches, one cushion, and the side of the cockpit).  LINES were scattered on the cockpit floor.  The Chef was busy trying to keep breakfast down, while the Captain was shivering from the wind and spray.  Our instruments reported the true wind speed at 35 knots!  The waves had been HUGE!!!  But we survived!  And more importantly Billabong was amazing.  She handled great!  Once in the shadow of the island, the seas calmed and the wind settled.  We ANCHORED without any problems and cracked open a well earned beer!  And it all seems worthwhile when you consider the view from our 'doorstep':

Unfortunately our friends never made it back out.  Even more unfortunate, they were providing the steaks for dinner that evening!  But this is where I passed my first offshore cruising test ... I had planned for the "unexpected".  And so Chris and I didn't starve, but rather sat down to a dinner of green salad, French Sourdough bread w/ balsamic vinegar, and Pesto Risotto w/ Shrimp.  I suppose the biggest error in dinner was that I made enough Risotto for a small army.  Wednesday night we were still eating leftovers!!!

We were very happy to have not turned back.  Not only because the evening was wonderful, but we recognize that we won't always have the option of turning around!  We had eventually planned on doing some shakedowns in rougher seas and higher winds, I think we just hadn't really expected it to be on our first sail out!  And just what does "Blowing like Stink" mean?  Well, 35 knots coming straight at your bow seems to satisfy our definition

The next morning, we headed back and it was a beautiful sail! A light ~10 knot wind coming from behind (and slightly port), and only slight swells! No blood, no spilled cupboards, no water in the bed, and as usual, a perfect parking job by the Captain!  We don't have very many pictures from this trip (we had more important things going on ... like sailing!), but those that I do have I'll be posting under "Pictures" in the near future.

PS ... 71 days and counting ...

Continue reading "Blowing like stink!"...

Monday, August 04, 2003

It's a sailboat again!

Originally posted on SailBillabong

The countdown continues, 89 days left!  I just purchased a new watch (specifically for the trip of course).  I'm under tight budget (as should anyone who plans on being without income for an extended period of time), however I read that having a good watch with a timer, alarm, back-light, and dual-time keeping was recommended, and of COURSE that meant I had to have one, right away!  It was like receiving permission.  My need was further confirmed this weekend, when my 'fancy' watch twice unclasped (nearly dropped into the water) and left lovely black marks all over my wrist after getting wet.  Plus, I'm in shopping withdrawal since I'm no longer allowed to purchase shoes (per Captain's orders on the number of shoes I'm allowed to bring aboard).  Anyway, what's the point in confessing to this purchase?  Well, it has a "Day Counter" mode, and today I set it to Nov 1, 2003 ... which is precisely 89 days from now!  I can't wait until it flashes [time's up]!

But, enough about the watch, it's not why you're reading this ... what's new with Billabong and the trip is what you're really after, right?

Raising the Mast

The biggest news of the day is that the mast is back up!  We raised it on Friday (Aug 1st).  Apparently it is customary to put a coin under the mast (so many boat superstitions, I'm not sure how we'll keep up with them all).  Chris spent the prior week searching for the proper coin.  We finally settled on a Massachusetts quarter he found heads up in the marina parking lot.  Why?  We figured MA was good because it is where we want to end up, and being found heads up (which is good luck on it's own) in the marina were we live just seemed to be "fate".  And so it sits under our mast, hopefully protecting our boat
It's a sailboat again!
To see this exciting process pictorially click here (or visit the picture index anytime).

Nothing in the boating world occurs without a hitch though.  After motoring over to the boat yard, raising the mast, and tuning the rigging, Chris powered her up to motor back to our slip.  But our engine was not spewing water. [Oh, I'm sure spewing is NOT the proper nautical term, but I believe it to be an accurate description of what occurs].  Finally, about an hour later, with the help of two engine mechanics under Chris's guidance, the problem was found -- a stripped water pump.  Luckily Chris had a SPARE!!!  (Chris has a spare for everything).  Chris replaced the pump and we were able to successfully motor back.  The engine still seems to be leaking copious amounts of oil, but that is a problem for another day.

On Sunday we put the boom back up, reattached the main sail, and added in the reef lines. I also took my first trip up the mast (unlike the guy from the yard, I sat in the chair while Chris used the roller furling to raise me).  I went up twice (running the jack lines) -- my first time lacked a bit in the grace department (or as Chris stated I had "the grace of a water buffalo"), but the second time up I looked like a pro (or at least felt like one, and Chris, being the smart boyfriend he is, didn't bother to contradict me!!!).  

Finally, with the insides of the boat put back together and a promise from Chris that it would remain as such, I went to work cleaning and organizing, while Chris continued to work on the engine. Typically, it is not an extremely large task to clean such a small space, however with the possibility of actually doing some sailing in the near-term, it took quite a bit more effort and thought (I'm still adjusting to the idea of living at an angle and objects flying around with each tack).  All of our hard work this last weekend was well worth it though, she looks beautiful and (more importantly) we are hoping to get in some after-work day sailing over the next few weeks.  We have also [tentatively] planned a trip to the islands for next weekend.

Over the weekend Chris also ran wiring from the navigation station to the forward main cabin.  This will allow him to hook-up additional instruments in our cabin, such that we won't have to get out of bed in order to monitor things like wind speed (really I think he just wants to check the compass setting when I'm on watch to double check I'm not taking us to Tahiti when we are aiming for Fiji). Monday he marked and added 350 feet of chain to the boat, surprisingly our water line was barely affected.

Of course, there is still much to do!  The wind vane Chris ordered just came in, and it, along with our water-maker, needs to be installed.  We need to get down to LA at some point in order to have our life raft repacked, pick up the water maker, and visit the appropriate embassy's for visas.  Plus the other zillion projects, which honestly I can't keep track of (lucky for us Chris has a spreadsheet!).

We've recently received a quote on some canvas work and are now trying to decide what is worth the cost versus what we can do ourselves (or as Chris says, what I can do -- although I have a feeling Chris may be a better sewer than me!).  I do know I'll be attempting to make BBQ covers, line bags, and a few other things.  Chris and I (or mostly Chris) will also be making our full boat awning (we both went into shock when we read that particular quote!!!).

Other (non-boat specific) projects are moving along nicely.  We recently sent in for passport renewals, will be receiving our second round of vaccination shots on the 22nd, and have our first First-Aid and CPR class on the 7th.  We've also just received a sample case of canned meats to try out in the galley.  The pictures on the cans look a bit scary, but supposedly this brand got rave reviews!  We'll keep you posted.

Oh yes, and we've also been working on designing our official boat stamp.  Supposedly it is extremely handy when doing custom's paperwork and what not, and wins you big points with the officials (I've also heard that fresh baked muffins work wonders when checking in - I'll let you know).  Here are a couple of our test stamp designs, once we finalize one, we'll be sending off the design for a self-inking rubber stamp.

The logo is a Hei-matau fish-hook bone carving and represents prosperity, abundance and fertility.  Wearing the Hei-Matau is a sign of respect for the sea and its creatures so it is also regarded a good luck charm providing protection and safety while traveling over water.  Chris picked the logo, and I've been working to make a design suitable for a stamp.

I guess that about wraps it up.  I'm sure things will be much more exciting and interesting when we are actually sailing, but for now you can never be too prepared!  Of course if there is anything you'd like to hear about in these journal pieces, be sure to let us know.
Continue reading "It's a sailboat again!"...