As I’ve mentioned, I have been trying to do my 125-mile qualifier for a couple of weeks now. It turns out the effort was in vain, since our Guadalupe Island for which I needed to qualify, has since been canceled, but I wanted to share about my latest journey anyhow. The journey is what really matters to me, and though I said it was in vain, I truly don’t believe any of these efforts are in vain. I have been able to give Cassiopeia a good shakedown, and I feel ready for Begg Rock now, which is the race that is replacing Guadalupe Island. I have included some videos of my day, interspersed with the story to give a sense of the ups and downs of my day.
I finally found a few days that I could get away, and then I had to wait for the right weather. I was vacillating between compulsively checking all of the wind prediction sites and obsessively staring at the sea of masthead flies out my window. I would look at the wind direction and will the wind instrument cups to spin faster. All of this in hopes of grabbing the perfect weather recipe to head offshore. Did I mention it was raining? It was a dreary day in Marina Del Rey, but there is something about the moodiness of it all that was calling me out there anyhow. I’m not afraid of a little rain, but truth be told, I fear the fog, and on top of that, I really didn’t want to head out for this trip in anything under 10 knots.
I ended up departing on a Sunday morning. The wind looked good and the weather was clear. I started my track right outside the breakwater because the wind was actually up, which wasn’t expected for a bit. I was planning on motoring up towards Malibu for a while to ensure a nice tack out past the West End of Catalina, and ended up being able to sail instead. The conditions were dreamy, and Cassiopeia was moving well.
My happiness couldn’t win over the sea sickness I started to feel about 3 hours into our trip. It is fairly usual for me to feel a little quease, but this came on fast, and got pretty yucky. I stayed my course though and was determined to persevere. As sunset was approaching, I was nearing the West end. I decided to tack away for while, because not only was I closer to the island than I wanted to be, but there was a huge black squall just beyond, which didn’t look too fun.
With my new inner stay, I have to furl my Genoa in order to tack, and I am not used to this yet, so it admittedly throws me off my routine (I actually forgot on my 1st tack of the day and learned 1st hand why this is mandatory). I started to tack, and thankfully remembered at the last minute, got the sail in, and the tack was fine. We headed out for a while in the pre-sunset light, and though I was happy to be going away from the black skies, I realized I was not being very efficient in getting offshore. The wind direction made it such that I was essentially heading more towards home than out to sea, so I decided to tack back and brave the squall. I remembered on this tack to furl my sail, but this time it wouldn’t budge. I tried a few tricks, but the furler was jammed. I went up forward to check it out and I had the world’s most annoying and severe override of the furling line. There was nothing I could do to fix it in the drum, so I had to remove all of the line. All of this while the bow is heaving and I am getting sicker by the moment. I got the line out, and started to see if there was an efficient way to re-run it without dropping my sail (so I could wind it easily on the drum). There really wasn’t, and I felt like crap. I hemmed and hawed for a moment as I hung on to the wet foredeck, but the thought of heading offshore towards a squall in the night without a way to reef my big Genoa was not prudent (and I didn’t want to deal with dropping it and lashing it on deck in the dark feeling the way I was). Sure I could have lashed the genoa to my foredeck then and there, and continued with my staysail until morning, but sickness trumped everything, and I decided to call it a day. I dropped the sail, and turned Cassiopeia towards the Isthmus, which was about nine miles away. I was kicking myself because the override was totally my fault. I didn’t tend the furling line on one of my tacks as I let the sail out. This is something I always ride my crew about, and I did it in a moment of thoughtlessness. I was very annoyed with myself, to say the least!
As I motor sailed towards the familiar harbor, I felt a sense of relief wash over me. I was sad to quit, but also glad to be heading in for a respite from this queasiness. As we approached the entrance to the harbor, darkness fell heavily, and there was no moon to guide us. Thankfully the wind subsided as I dropped my sails and headed in. I called harbor patrol a few times and there was no answer. Oh right…its winter. They go home early this time of year, so I was on my own. I usually ask for assistance when Im alone in picking up a mooring. The guys are so happy to help, and I have found that doing it alone in my big boat is just not that fun. It was all up to me that night, though, and I managed to get it done in three tries…mostly because I could hardly see a thing, let alone a skinny stick in that darkness. If anyone had seen or heard me, it would have provided some serious comic relief. I had a running conversation going with myself and Cassiopeia, as I tried to shine my headlamp just so to be able to see the stick, and then to get her at just the perfect glide to make it all happen.
Once I was on the mooring, I was able to let down, and I realized I was still very queasy. Usually the quease subsides once I stop moving, but not this time. It continued into the next day, and most of the way home. I was able to easily fix my furler the next morning, but once I stopped focusing on that, I felt so sick that I had to go to land for a few hours before heading home. Thankfully the island did not disappoint with her emerald green hills and impressive serenity. A long walk helped me to re-calibrate a bit. I was more saddened by my sea sickness than by retiring from my qualifier. It feels like such a cruel joke to get sick doing the thing I love the most. I love it too much to stop though, and am now determined to find the perfect sea sickness remedy for these shorter offshore trips.
The beauty always wins, and as I write this, I am reminded that sailing is my solace, and something I do to feed my soul. It is so easy to get sucked into proving and pushing as I get more into solo offshore racing, but this trip reminded me to slow down and connect to my why. For me it is all about connecting to myself more deeply. Sailing gives me that, and when I slow down enough to listen to my gut and remember the pleasure that I am seeking, I can be kinder to myself when snafus happen and I need to turn around. Of course if I were in my way to Hawaii, I would have continued and would have had to fix the furler underway…or perhaps I would have waited to daylight. The point is though, that I was doing this for myself, and I was close to land with a safe and easy way to take care of myself. I’m proud to have chosen that.