Going to sea warps my senses, leaves me refreshed. I feel like I’m adding time — days to my life.
Reflecting on the experience, the days seem longer, the weekends feel more like weeks. But in a good way. Not like you’re stuck on an airplane or on a cross-country bus.
I come home feeling like I’ve received a precious gift — more capital added to my life’s balance sheet.
My senses are more acute. Time slows down. Conversations become more intimate, I am leading two lives: one at sea; the other on land. The contrast brings out the highlights and makes each more enjoyable.
Our cruise to Los Coronados, Mexico felt like I was being set free. More like a full weekend away than the 29 hours we spent on board.
We left the dock at 1030 on Saturday and returned at 1530 on Sunday. My favorite part of this trip, besides being in the company of amazing souls, was the sense of discovery.
I’ve lived with Celtic Song for about 10 years. I know her top to bottom. Yet in those 29 hours in the company of some thoughtful, curious, persistent minds, I learned some things.
At anchor, with the wheel centered and locked, the rudder would shift slightly back and forth, sending a jolt through the boat like a 5-year-old kicking the back of your seat at the movies. Ken solved that annoying shudder by turning and locking the wheel all the way to starboard. Ahh, peace and quiet.
Our Lighthouse windlass is one of the finest and most powerful available. But what if some day it fails with 250 feet of five-eighths chain clamoring to be hauled up? So Joe practiced raising the anchor manually, first using a winch handle on top of the windlass (slower than a turtle) and then on the side (more like a fast turtle).
Next Mora and I tied a rolling hitch to the anchor chain, led the line to a port winch on the mast and winched it up effortlessly (more like a jogging rabbit).
We experimented with ways to de-castle the chain as it piled up in the anchor locker without sending crew to babysit it below. Maybe if we removed the partition separating the two existing anchor lockers that would allow more room for the chain to relax and spread out. Worth considering.
During our last crew overboard lesson, Ken tried using the topping lift with the electric winch to raise a person out of the water with the life sling. What do you know, much faster and more efficient.
And then there was the problem with the single sideband antenna that had been installed attached to, and forward of, the backstay. The fragile antenna made an easy handhold for new crew in the cockpit. Only a matter of time before it was destroyed. A little engineering and a bit of nylon twine later and the antenna was now aft of the forestay allowing lots of handholds on the sturdy stay.
Now add the wonderful stories shared, great food, laughter, trust and a gently rocking good night’s sleep to the mix and you have the recipe for an unforgettable experience.
(Check out the photo album ).
Next trip to Los Coronados, Mexico is April 29 and 30. Complete your day classes and join us aboard.
The scene: Southeast of the Coronado Bridge near Piers 18 and 19
The crew: Diane, Mora and Ken
The event: Bowline flogs loose on staysail’s port clew, turning it into an angry, writhing serpent-like creature poised to strike as the boat heads toward shallow water
The question: Will our heroes emerge unscathed?
Finally we had a sunny, warm, windy day after a series of winter rain storms. Mora, Ken and I decided it was the perfect day to hank on the staysail, rig the running backstays and engage the boom brake for a downwind sail.
Ken eased out of the slip and headed northeast and then southeast, toward town. We passed the moorings where my former boat, an older, smaller version of Celtic Song, now lies, paralleled Harbor Island, turned downwind and sailed smartly under the Coronado Bay Bridge.
It was a perfect day for sailing and practicing with a single-reefed main, staysail and boom brake.
We had lots of opportunity to release and tighten the running backstays as we gybed. After easing under the bay bridge, we gybed and began heading up for our return.
That’s when things began to unwind — literally. The apparent wind picked up to 17 knots, and the staysail’s port clew bowline unravelled. The sail turned into an a loud frenzy of flogging fabric and line.
Ken went forward to drop the staysail. Mora began to haul in a now stubborn genoa to slow the boat and keep it from speeding into the bridge. I was busy at the helm as well as trying to tighten the remaining staysail sheet to halt the sail’s wild gyrations. Ken stood on the foredeck behind the protection of the mast, determining the safest way to drop the staysail.
That’s when the ever-calm Mora said matter of factly, “the depth sounder just fell to 7 feet.”
My response: “Oh sh- -! Need to tack NOW.”
We did, and our small corner of the ocean improved. Depth increased. Ken wrestled the staysail down, keeping all body parts intact. Mora retied her bowline. We raised the staysail and began the long upwind series of tacks back to our slip.
While putting the boat away, we noticed a few fresh chips in the teak handrail, caused by the out-of-control metal grommet on the staysail clew. Better the rail than a crew member. Thanks to quick thinking and experienced crew, we avoided an undesirable outcome.
(Being thoughtful about your sailing habits allows you to make black box deposits)
Diane Berol is an ocean adventurer and the captain of Celtic Song based in San Diego, CA.