A Filmmaking Adventure to Catalina

I had the incredible honor of hosting two amazing young women on my boat this month. Erica Mellon and Elle O’Brien are college students, and aspiring filmmakers. They approached me for advice a few months back, wondering about tips on making a film about a sailing adventure they are planning (It seemed that they thought I knew what I was doing when I made my film). I promptly gave my disclaimer and shared my self proclaimed title of accidental filmmaker, but that I would, of course do whatever I could to support them. Their project is very exciting, and as they share more, I will too!

We had a Skype call to get to know one another, and I have to tell you, that it was love at first sight. The light and enthusiasm that shone through the cyber waves from these young women inspired me on the spot and filled me with deep joy. Within about 10 minutes I had invited them to California to have an adventure to Catalina so that they could get the feel for life on a boat, and also make a practice film in the process.

My gut feeling was right, because having them with me on the boat for 4 days was a delight. We sailed to Catalina and even ventured around the backside for another perspective. Our conversations were profound and connected, and these 20-something women had me reeling from their depth and awareness.

Being with them was inspiring and deeply healing for me. Their presence and connected ways reminded me of something I lost track of in my life, which added a beautiful missing puzzle piece to my healing journey. I am so grateful to them for reminding me.

I am so excited to see their short film on our trip, and for a lifetime of friendship and collaboration. Love you guys!


Pt. Dume and Return :: A Wonderful Day on The Water!

Photo by TAMI RAE of   LOADED CANON

Photo by TAMI RAE of LOADED CANON

To say our team is flying high after Saturday’s race, would be an understatement. Not only was it an incredible experience on the water, but we placed 4th out of 12 boats in a class of very accomplished and experienced racers. I entered this class because I knew we wanted to use our spinnaker, and I erroneously thought the other class was non-spinnaker. I also am more comfortable with this kind of longer distance race, so it didn’t feel quite as intimidating as the shorter buoy races. That being said, I also knew we were jumping in with the big dogs! As nervous as this made me, I felt it would be a good way to push ourselves! And push ourselves we did!

The start was very exciting, as we were much more in the mix than usual, and there were more boats (or so it seemed). My nerves were holding up pretty well until I found myself sandwiched in tight quarters between two boats with skippers at the helm whom I know and admire. All of a sudden my belly was doing flips and my knees were shaking. Despite my nerves, we maneuvered well, and it felt good. I have to commend Lara on her strategy and coaching at the start, as we definitely had one of our best! The only thing that I regret is that I couldn’t get up to speed like I wanted to after we crossed the line, and we were quickly left in the dust. Not for long though, because we tacked away from everyone and out to sea (which was Lara’s and my original plan based on our gut feeling and research of wind prediction before the race).

This proved to be a good call, as we moved really well up the coast towards Malibu staying outside. The breeze was stiff (up to 20 knots at times) and at one point we became very overpowered as my boat often gets. I tried reefing the headsail first based on a recommendation of my sailmaker, but quickly found that my original thought of reefing the main and keeping the genoa out was a better call. Once we did this, we started pulling away from the boats around us, and were able to point again. We had to shake out the reef about 30 minutes later as the wind came down to 9-11 knots, but that decision to reef gained us considerable headway. As we got close to our mark in Malibu, the wind dropped to almost nothing, and it seemed that we, and all of the boats around us came to a screeching halt. As we prepared to tack around the buoy, Lara wanted me to tack tight in front of another boat, and I wouldn’t (couldn’t). She was a beautiful wooden boat, and I was convinced I was going to hit her if I tacked that close. As much as I trust Lara, this was a time when I had to let my own feelings take over. She assures me we wouldn’t have hit (and I do believe her), but she also reassured me that she respects when I need to over-ride her based on my own comfort level. This is an example of what I LOVE about our boat. We are always communicating and clarifying, so we can all grow and keep a calm respectful vibe on the boat.

After we rounded the mark at Malibu, we headed out to sea again on the hunt for pressure. Once we found it, Jana and the foredeck team got the spinnaker up and flying.  Jana Davis doesn’t normally sail with us (even though I wish upon a star every day that she could), but she was able to on this race. She is a foredeck wizard and an all-around amazing human being.  She brought all kinds of knowledge, humor and good juju to our boat, and we are so grateful for her! We were able to run down the coast at a good clip for a while with our spinnaker full and in doing so, we were neck and neck with some great boats. We have an asymmetrical spinnaker, so we were unable to head as deep as we needed to and we started to head away from our mark (out to sea) more than I was comfortable with. That coupled with the wind dropping a bit lead Lara and me to the decision of losing the spinnaker and heading dead downwind, wing and wing to our mark. This was apparently the ticket and what I believe actually made the difference for us in placing as well as we did. We started moving well, and making a solid course towards our last mark at the breakwater. Right about at this point, Tami Rae of Loaded Canon with Eddie Hollister at the helm of a very badass looking skiff approached us. They zoomed all around us taking pictures while the ladies acted as a human downhaul on the whisker pole (I forgot to rig a downhaul before we left). I have included some of her amazing photos of us below. If you haven’t checked out her work, please do. Her images are beautiful! Please check out her work here. Also, if you want to see more photos from the day or buy prints, the link for her gallery from this race is here. Also, I will have an interview featuring her coming soon to my blog!

It just after this that we heard a “mayday” over the VHF. Our hearts all skipped a beat and our boat went silent as we realized that one of the boats in our race had lost a crew overboard. They had also lost their rudder and were unable to get to her. The mood aboard Cassiopeia became very somber as we all listened intently and sent out prayers for her speedy retrieval from the chilly sea. We were too far to have been able to help, and there were other boats closer, so all we could do was to continue sailing and hold her, and their crew in our prayers. You could have heard our collective cheers and screams from far away as we heard that she had been pulled out of the water by a fellow racer. It gave us all pause and generated a hearty conversation about PFD’s and boat safety. We are so happy that she is ok!

As we got close to the last mark, all of the boats that had been in front of us on the spinnaker run were now behind us. It wasn’t a huge lead, but it was big enough for us to be able to round the mark first and make it to the finish line before them. It was very exciting as we all converged and tried to finish a race in little to no wind. Making it to that last mark basically consisted of the waves pushing us there. The wind came up just enough for us to power up to the finish. We finished within inches of another boat which was extremely exhilarating!

As we cranked up the engine and headed down the channel for home, we were passed by Whitney Green on Pacific. Whitney shouted out, “nice race Margie”! I was completely blown away and humbled by this. We have only met a few times, and I’m sure she doesn’t realize that I have always looked up to her from afar. Her words meant so much to me and were the icing on the cake of a wonderful day!

As we toasted our day and had our ritual debriefing in my cockpit, I looked around at these strong and unique women with such gratitude and awe. Each had given everything they had all day long, and together we sailed a great race. We didn’t know how we had placed at this point, but we felt so happy with how we sailed, and our collective joy lit up my slip!  The theme of the day seemed to be trusting our intuition. I know that the few times that I trusted my gut and made calls based on that, that it proved invaluable. I think Lara had the same experience. I see this as another opportunity for me/us to look at how important it is to sail my own race and not get caught up in technicalities (shoulds, or supposed tos) or what others around us are doing. We proved to ourselves today that following our gut and making calls that may have seemed strange in comparison to our competitors was the right thing for us. In the end, this is a great metaphor for life, no?

All images
by TAMI RAE of LOADED CANON

 

 

 

 

 

Light Air and  Big Learning Curve

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We had our work cut out for us yesterday for our Wednesday night race! The wind was very light, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, and by the end of the evening, we found ourselves in an accelerated learning program for light air sailing! As we headed out, Lara took the helm and did a lot of practice tacks and jibes to get a sense of Cassiopeia's maneuverability. As she did this, I realized I couldn't chicken out anymore....no more crying wolf that Its too tight when she wants me to tack or jibe close to another boat. There was a lot of laughing as I called myself out on my phobia. Joking aside, it was actually a worthwhile thing to do, because I was able to understand the space and maneuverability of my boat in a new way. I finally have hope that I will get over my nerves about this. I called Lara's exercise "desensitization therapy"....and it certainly was.

We were a little late to the line on our start, but had good speed nonetheless considering the conditions, so it turned out OK. The wind stayed light but consistent on the course until we were just about at the windward mark. I was struggling with steering the whole time, and was grateful for all of the experienced sailors on the boat who kept me on point and helped me! Its is so hard to steer in light air, and I am so excited to get better at it. Yesterday was a perfect day to practice! I loved listening to Carrie as she coached the genoa trimmers on sail trim. She was recently called our secret weapon by Neil Fraser (of Mexican Divorce who has known her since she was a kid), and I know he is right! She trims our mainsail like nobody's business, and is always contributing to what is happening on the boat with her extensive knowledge of all things sailing. Once we rounded the mark, it became so light that it was hard to fly our genoa, even with a pole. All of the boats around us were struggling with the same issue, and their crews were performing all kinds of weight shifts, acrobatics and sail configurations to try and eek the most out of essentially NO wind. We would get excited if we started moving at a speed of more than 1.5 knots! It was fun to hear and try my crew's various light air tricks and tips. As the dark of night consumed the post sunset glow, we were almost to the breakwater. At this point we were getting really excited because the wind came up to about 3 knots and we were moving better than we had been in a while. As we rounded the channel markers however, we were back to floating forward at a knot or so. It was so quiet and still, and the sight of all of the die hards around us trying to make it to the finish line by the cut off time was so beautiful. The ladies on the foredeck did their best to pole out our headsail, but in the end human “poling” was what worked best-three ladies holding  the sail out to try and catch any wind that was available. It wasn’t much, but we actually kept moving (though I could have walked faster). If we had had five more minutes, we would have made it to the finish, but alas, 8:30pm rolled around just before we made it.  As we rolled up the headsail and I cranked up the engine, the mood aboard Cassiopeia was enthusiastic and jovial despite the conditions and our DNF! 

We were lucky to have Carliane Johnson aboard our boat as an honorary team member. Carliane is going to take off in about six weeks on a huge adventure that is dear to my heart….the Singlehanded Transpac.  She learned to sail later in life, and is essentially a self-taught sailor, but her tenacity, dedication and resulting mad skills makes it seem like she has been doing it for a lifetime. By throwing herself into racing and single handing at every opportunity, she has become a very admirable sailor and racer. You can read more about her badassery in my interview of her here.

I am blown away more each time I sail with these amazing women. I feel so grateful for each of their energy, wisdom, humor, love, prowess and enthusiasm. I cannot wait for Saturday, when we will be sailing in the Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/Stein series, Pt. Dume Return race. Im hoping this year is a little less wild than my experience last year (you can read about that here)! We will be sailing against a lot of very experienced racers and well sailed boats out there, so this will be a wonderful challenge for us!

All photos by Robin Mohilner