With a narrow weather window and 150 nautical miles (NM) ahead of us (which is approximately 277 km or 172 miles), our journey started in a near-spastic gathering of supplies and half-assed attempt at stowing our provisions. This is not the way we had envisioned our graceful departure, but it would be a lie to call it anything less than expected. There was a lot of nervous energy in the air as the hour of departure had come and gone. In the end the Vento Dea left the dock 8 hours later than scheduled.
As we slowly chugged along towards the breakwater it was hard to believe that this was a one-way trip and we may never sail back into our home harbor again. Josie, already nervous about sailing at night, was in for a surprise because just outside the break water the swell was bouncing back at just the right angle to make the waves steep and the motion uncomfortable. To make things worse it was so dark one could barely tell the sea from the sky so one could not prepare from one wave to the next.
As I scrambled about in the darkness to hoist the mainsail, fear, doubt and motion sickness began to lay heavy upon Josie. She began to wonder if this was the start of a 4 month long mistake and her mind began to wander to worst-case scenarios. As she struggled to stay calm and ignore the terrible creeping feeling of sea sickness, Josie began to wonder if she was cut out for a life of adventure and if I had lied to her when I said that this was going to be fun. Returning from the fore-deck I told her, “You know this is going to be one of the worst parts of the trip, right?” As the situation improved she decided to go lay down for a bit.
Josie was beginning to feel a bit better as she returned from her short nap. The swell and wave had subsided, the breeze picked up and the stars had come out in a big way. As the city lights faded an incredible meteor shower began on what was one of the clearest nights either of us could remember. For the rest of the night shooting stars could be seen kissing the horizon. Josie thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all.”
As dawn broke they were treated to the kinds of sunrise that can only be experienced at sea, it was a sort of calm beauty that can only truly be appreciated through tired eyes after what seemed like endless hours of darkness. The only let down was the lack of wind and broken autopilot. So the old Yanmar engine was fired up in an attempt to clear the major ports of Los Angeles in the daylight. This did not happen.
As the sun set the air became cold and the constant drizzle set in, the wind shifted and they were now heading into the wind. Even with full foul-weather gear, three layers of pants, three jackets, a vest and undershirts it didn’t seem like enough to keep us warm and dry. I steered as we approached the bright lights of Long Beach. We proceeded slowly and crossed paths with two container ships and a cruise liner. It was a relief to have the major intersection behind us. From there it was just about holding on through the night, trying to stay awake and warm.
The grey of an overcast morning slowly came upon the sea. Tired, wet and with more rain on the way, we decided to head for Oceanside for some much needed rest and a warm shower. As we prepared to dock a friendly stranger offered to help us tie up. Always appreciative of a helping hand we gladly accepted his offer and he somehow, beyond my comprehension, managed to tie one of my jib sheets to the dock. Although I didn’t understand the how, the why became immediately clear as he proceeded to tell us he had been drinking since 5:30am. After seeing the bow roller and pulpit on his Catalina 36 had been rammed full speed into a cement piling, it was clear that this behavior was the rule not the exception.
When all was said and done we had been sailing 36hrs of mostly hand steering with an average speed of 3 knots. Dry land and 12hrs of sleep never felt so good.