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 ...

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