Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The PERFECT Storm....

Over night passages can be rough.
They can also be poetically beautiful. Warm trade winds blowing, star lit skies, ticking off the miles in peace while the boat surges ahead.

That wasn’t the case for our first over nighter.

Molly was nervous about this first overnight passage. Understandably so. It is a scary thing
We left Monterey after spending a few days resting and cleaning up ourselves and the boat. The first few hours out were not remarkable….except that it would get breezy, then die off, then get windy again, which meant I was on deck a lot and didn’t really get a chance to nap before it got dark. At one point during this period I found myself battling the headsail to get it to settle down and be quiet. We were sailing far enough off/away from the wind that it would fill w/ a bang, pull for a few seconds, then collapse and bang around against the mast…..fill again….bang….rinse repeat…..Finally Molly said sheepishly, “Would it make more sense to furl it??” (Put it away….) I figured it couldn’t hurt and rolled it up. The boat quieted down, and we didn’t lose any boat speed…….she has good instincts.

I finally got a chance to put my head down around 8, but was up at 8:30 as the wind changed again.
I forget who was on deck around 2 am……we both were half there I guess. This is when the night watch demons really get going. It is stinking dark, which is scary by itself. But you are tired which makes everything worse. Then there are the worries, the boat breaks, the kids fall overboard, I go overboard…… The wind started to come up for real and even I was getting a little nervous. We were doing 9 plus knots down wind w/ just the main sail up….that is like 120 mph in a car…..way too fast for some, just right for others….but really scary on a dark country road when you can’t see around the next turn….well….you can’t see where the next turn even is!
I was walking Molly through the steps of how I was going to reef (reduce) the main sail (basically taking our foot off the gas)….how I was going to be up on the (pitch black pitching) deck and she was going to be steering the (wildly out of control) boat when I heard her whimper something….
"WHAT!” I yelled over the noise….
”Can we just take it down?” she quietly pleaded through tears.
Now understand, taking sail down altogether when there is a fresh breeze up is like a heroine addict saying no to a little bump…..that ain’t gonna happen. But I realized immediately the position I was in: 1) reassure her that it would be fine and continue w/ the reefing process (and be an ass even if it was fine) or be a hero and simply take the sails down…….and so down they came.
Here’s the kicker: The boat immediately quieted down ( a given), the auto pilot which had been over powered previously took over control w/ ease (an unexpected bonus) and the biggest surprise…WE WERE STILL DOING 6-7 KNOTS UNDER BARE POLES!! Who needs sails!!!

Like I said, the lady has good instincts……

Why the title of this post? Because on top of the normal
fear of an overnight sail, the anxiety about being on the open ocean w/ your
kids lives in your hands, the 2-3 am exhaustion after wrestling w/ the boat all
night AND having the boat totally out of control in the pitch black…..Molly was
also PMS’ing . It was the perfect storm!

The following night we had our second all nighter and it was much more
the romantic novel version of a night time passage. My third trip around the dreaded Point
Conception and once again I had to motor for lack of wind…..a good thing. (Some call Pt Conception the “Cape Horn” of the Pacific.)

And here is the reward for gutting out a shitty night night sailing:

When asked to pick out a board game to play last night, JP picked “Battleship” (as in you sunk my Battleship!”
Anyone else see the irony in that??


  1. Thanks for the layperson terms! Glad you guys are alive :)

  2. Hey guys! Sounds like it was almost as much fun as our all night sail in the opposite direction. Nice call to let the "good husband" instincts override the sailor instincts. Miss you guys...enjoying the blog though.

  3. Like every great writer, you need an editor. Keep writing, it's nice to hear your voice through the words.

  4. When we did our cruise when I was a kid, we had a very similar experience in the same spot - bare poles in the middle of the night, doing 6-7 knots. To top it off, my Dad was really seasick. When certain music comes on, I can go right back to that noisy, unsteady place, with the glow of the light over the chart table being the only thing keeping us from being in the pitch black. As you know Ben, it only gets better...

  5. It sounds as if you are having quite the adventure! I continue to share the stories with the parents and Dana - so keep 'em comin'
    -Brenda (Hyde) Hansen