I have always been an avid learner and seeker. People who know me well know that when I decide to take something on, I dive in head first and will stop at nothing (and maybe even become a tad obsessive :-)) to learn as much as I possibly can on the topic. I have certainly been a life long student of sailing, but since deciding to do the SHTP, I have taken that drive to a new level. I wrote a bit about that in a previous post, but that was mainly focusing on book learning. I recently decided to take a hands on class to bone up on my knowledge of navigation, weather and night sailing. I did this by taking the ASA (American Sailing Association) Advanced Coastal Cruising (ASA 106) through Bluewater Sailing in Marina Del Rey. Fifteen years ago I completed the comparable certifications up through this point with US Sailing, and though I opted not to go for the certifications this time, it was a valuable experience. I definitely learned some new and important information in this course, mainly about navigation, effective use of radar, and how to better keep the boat balanced in big winds and seas for the most effective performance (as well as minimal pressure on the rudder). Another important thing I was reminded of, is how much I actually do know, and how trusting that is just as important as seeking support and new knowledge.
The class was comprised of 2.5 classroom days, and 3 nights on the water with 3 other students and an instructor. The goal was to plan a voyage from start to finish, and undertake all of the tasks to make that happen. I was lucky to have great crew-mates and a great instructor. Sadly, however, I started off the trip fighting a bug of some kind, which I am convinced contributed greatly to my 2 days of seasickness.
Intermittent seasickness aside, the trip went well, and despite not feeling at all like myself, I enjoyed a lot of the beautiful moments that only being at sea can provide. We headed out of Marina Del Rey on a Wednesday afternoon around 4. We got to put our radar to the test, as we were blanketed in thick fog for the first hour of our journey. The fog lifted just in time for sunset, and from that point on we enjoyed a beautiful cruise (under power) up to Paradise Cove, where we anchored for the night.
We all stood an anchor watch, and being the last one (lucky me), I woke everyone at 6 the next morning for an early departure. Our original plan was to go to Santa Barbara Island, and then to Cat Harbor, but given the intense weather that was developing to the northwest, we decided to abort that plan and head straight for Catalina in case we needed to seek shelter from the storm. Seeking shelter was indeed what was called for, and we ended up on a mooring at the Isthmus for 36 hours or so. It was the roughest ride on a mooring I have ever had, but I was glad to be there in safe harbor because the winds ended up building to 30-40 knots, and there was a substantial swell to contend with. We were one of only 3 (non-company) boats in the harbor, and the dinghy docks and gangways from the main dock were removed to prepare for the weather, so there was no going ashore for us. Bobbing violently around on a mooring with 4 (albeit very cool) other people on a 41-foot Hunter was NOT my idea of fun, and only exacerbated my looming motion sickness. Finally after 2 nights in Two Harbors, the weather improved and we set sail for Marina Del Rey at 4am Saturday morning (to get our requisite night sailing time in). I was overjoyed to wake up and feel semi-normal, so I greeted the chilly early morning with enthusiasm! Once we got out past the lee of the island, we realized that despite the improvement in the weather, we still had some serious conditions to contend with. The gusty 25 knot wind was basically on our bow, and the swells were about 10 feet. This did not make for a comfortable ride at all, and forced us to motor sail (with a very reefed mainsail) for quite awhile. After about 45 minutes of this, the seasickness took hold of me again, and it was way worse this time. It did not let up for 8 more of the 10 hours that we were out there. It was total torture for me on so many levels. I have been queasy here and there, but have not thrown up or been debilitated from seasickness in 30 years (when crossing the Alenuihaha channel from Maui to Hawaii Island with my Dad). It was a very humbling experience to feel that way again, and caused my mind to spin off in many negative spirals, questioning my entire sailing career as well as all of my current goals. I even wandered into a debate with myself about whether or not I should even keep my boat. I was feeling pretty bleak despite the beauty that surrounded me, but that's how badly I felt, and how much the seasickness was skewing my sense of reality.
About an hour out from Marina Del Rey I started to feel better, and was able to take the helm as we returned home. It helped to focus my mind and feel the breeze in my face. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and we were under full sail by then. The closer we got to home, the more my queasiness lifted, and I was once again in love with sailing and all of the dark and ridiculous thoughts had passed.
I am grateful for the patience and compassion of my crew-mates, as well as the inevitability that seasickness passes. It is truly one of the worst feelings of all time. I know I am prone to feeling this way, but sailing alone helps keep it at bay due to the intense focus and responsibility that comes along with that endeavor.....so there is another reason on my list of why sailing solo works so well for me!