Sunday, August 24, 2014

Catalina Gale Part IV: Monstrous Waves!

Captain Brad continues:

     At the crack of dawn we got on the cell phone right away to call the guys. “Hello? Yea, you all need to take the tent down immediately, and …..What’s that!?“ To our shock, not only were they awake, but they had already broken camp.

 Furthermore they had also hiked with all their gear into town, and were in fact in the proximity of the pier. They were waiting for us! Man, the Navy S.E.A.L.’s could definitely use these guys.

 We got everyone on board, and ate an improvised breakfast (this would unfortunately not be the last time we would see our food as we quickly gulped it down), so as to gain an immediate departure.

 We checked the weather one last time for good measure. This time it was predicted for breaking seas, and very high winds. But not until the evening. We could already see the tops of the palm trees moving from the wind as it attempted to blast through the narrow isthmus, but it was otherwise a beautiful sunny day for all we could tell. 

For good measure, we lashed everything down, and set up a jack line to snap into, incase we should have to leave the safety of the cockpit. We also reefed down (tie it down so it is smaller) the mainsail, so as to prevent the boom from injuring someone, assuming it would be inevitable to do so latter anyways judging from the increasing wind.

 Even with the shortened sail, we made surprising good speed as we zipped out into blue water. The truth is that I hardly got any sleep during the night, even though I had felt exhausted. It was starting to catch up to me.  I told Albie that I was going to lie down for a few hours, so that I would be rested in case things got worse latter. As it turns out, later was not far away.

 I was just about to drift off to sleep when I could feel the bow of the boat being jolted with increased violence. I could overhear Albie telling Max that the boat was refusing to stay on our course. I climbed out into the cockpit, and was interested to see that the surface of the ocean was covered by whitecaps. 

The wind was strong enough that with our jib sail still up, it was impeding the bow of the boat from heading up. I put on my upper body harness, and clipped into the jack line before leaving the safety of the cockpit.  I began to make my way forward but was immediately forced onto my hands and knees, in order to keep from being thrown overboard. With some difficulty, I was able to pull down the fors’l (for-sail), and lash it off to the lifeline. This being accomplished, the little ship was now capable of heading up a little further into the wind, which allowed us to get back on course.

 Unfortunately, during the brief time that I was on the foredeck, the pounding of the bow in to the weather began to have its effect. It was not long at all, as I was hanging on with both arms and legs to the stanchions, sea-sickness began to overcome me. The wind was powerful enough that even with the jib down, the boat was heeled (leaning) over a good 25 degrees. I remembered the words “One hand for the ship” meaning that at all times you are supposed to hang on to the boat no matter what else you are doing. And hang on I did. As I yakked over the windward side of the vessel, the chunks flew straight back towards Albie, who was at the helm, carefully keeping the boat on a close reach. If the boat fell off the wind at this time, I would easily get thrown overboard, and harness or not, it would no doubt result in injury. I thought some of the vomit had hit Albie, but with so much spray and wind it was hard to say for sure. 

My Son Brad was out in the cockpit for quite a while, but only Albie and I had upper body harnesses rigged up. Twice we felt the boat toss and lurch so hard that we both looked over apprehensively at Brad who seemed relaxed and calm despite the building madness, as he was resting on the starboard side. If the boat were to capsize suddenly, he would be thrown into the drink, no question, and the vessel was starting to respond as if she might do just that. We suggested that he retreat into the safety of the cabin, which he obediently did. Well, this was certainly not a good start to our return voyage.

I drew this picture shortly after experiencing the Gale. The cockpit of our boat is in the bottom right atop a wave. To the left we are surrounded by the massive waves 

I kept looking back earnestly at Catalina wondering if we should not turn back.

 However, by now we could not find any shelter on this side of the island, and besides, we were already at least a quarter of the way across the channel. 

 I was disconcerted that the swells began to get steeper, and the frequency (how often the waves would hit us) was also increasing. I just kept vomiting as the weather worsened, and began to feel my energy draining, despite the adrenaline and exhilaration of the wind and the building seas. The little boat began to really get pounded from the steepness of the seas. 

It was as if we were driving into literal solid walls of water. And it was relentless. 

Most people can never appreciate the power of the substance otherwise known as H2O. --- While being a liquid, seawater actually weighs in excess of 8 lbs. per gallon, or 64 lbs. per cubic foot. That is of course when it is stationary. When it is being driven by the wind, its power and weight becomes exponential. Then add on to that the force of it breaking down on top of you as it swirls and collapses upon itself, well you really don’t want to be in its way at this point. But of course it was too late to choose to be safe and dry at home watching TV.

     As the vessel fought to climb over these ever increasing mountains, we could all feel the entire hull shudder from the violence. Upon the pounding of each consecutive wave, the fiberglass would literally bend and twist under the great pressure.

 My concern was mounting as my thoughts began to consider the gravity of the situation we were in.

Just how much punishment could this little ship take anyways? Certainly not much more. What would we do if she began to break apart?! I did not want to even consider that possibility. Of course that’s when I did what any logical person would do:  Pray. “Lord, please don’t let the mainsail give out. 

Just help us get these young men back safely.” I began to feel this huge burden of responsibility for the safety of these young lads, especially since their Moms had entrusted us with their well being.

 To our amazement the waves just kept getting bigger and bigger, and BIGGER. It became ever more urgent to steer the sailboat with the uttermost skill and accuracy.

The seas were starting to get confused (like a washing machine). If the helmsman misjudges even a single wave, it could be all over in less than a second.

 When the waves get that big proportionately to the vessel, it becomes necessary to pick the exact course of the sailboat as it weaves in between the breaking whitecaps. It’s like playing the video game Pac-man, where little goblins are trying to devour you, and all you have to do to avoid “game over” is to out-maneuver them. At the last minute some of the waves would be bigger than anticipated, and rouge waves were coming upon us from our quarter as well, just within the peripheral vision, and sometimes looming over us seemingly out of nowhere.

 This was just a little too intense. ONE mistake, and I mean only ONE, and the boat would be thrown sideways (known as broaching*). That is a guarantee to be knocked down (on to your side), and possibly rolled over and over, while taking on water, and most likely resulting in the mast snapping off. And of course that would be getting off easy.

The balance is to maintain enough SOG (speed over ground) to be able to get over the top of the crests of the mountains of water, but too much speed and it subjects the boat to pressures beyond its ability to withstand. The result is that it can and will break to pieces.  Speed is obtained as you surf the boat down the back side of the wave. 

Unless the vessel is turned gracefully at the exact moment it is arriving into the bottom of the trough, the bow will dig into the oncoming face of the next wave, resulting in what is known as pitch poling. This is an even more horrific scenario, where the boat literally attempts a somersault (usually not successfully). The boat comes to a screeching halt, and is then propelled backwards, jamming the rudder off to one side, or snapping it off altogether. Then you go sideways, and …..yes you guessed it….refer to the previous paragraph pertaining to broaching*.    

As Albie and I took turns at the helm battling against the unmerciful conditions, we were both awestruck at the sheer monstrosity of these waves. In-between waves, when free falling down into the trough, we would literally be obscured from everything around us, including the wind.

 It would seem for just a brief moment a repose from the elements, almost serene you could say (that is besides the gargantuan foaming waves all around us). When cresting over the top of the swells, the wind would suddenly unleash on us with a scream consisting of white salty foam being sprayed into our eyeballs at an estimated 50 of so miles per hour. The mainsail and mast were straining under a ridiculous amount of force."

Captain Albie:

 " That about says it all! I just couldn't believe I was seeing twenty foot waves out here only coming back from Catalina! I had heard of waves this big, but to see them in real life was just amazing and scary at the same time.

You would not believe how much fear was building up in me. I couldn't even see getting home safely anymore. That just seemed like a dream to good to be true. After talking to God at this point, I felt this unbelievable peace and knew I was in His arms. I must say one last thing. Even though I was feeling SO sick, I remained on deck to help Brad in any way I could. Looking out at the ocean,it was terrifyingly beautiful - if that makes sense!
I will leave it at that. But stay tuned for part Five!

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P:S Thanks for your comments!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Catalina Gale Part V: Caught by the Wind!

We left Catalina at 8:35 am.

We had calm seas for the first half mile from Two Harbors Catalina). Bigger swells came and then waves pick up to three to five feet. Winds were gusting 20 - 30 knots while we were behind Catalina island. This was about two or three hours. During this time I remember looking at the waves with awe as they sloped upward, every fifth or sixth wave breaking white. Braddock Jr. was out in the cockpit for a long time talking with me. Then Max came out for a while and took a picture of the scene. To our left was Catalina. I could see an anchorage as far off as maybe a mile as well as a sheer cliff and a giant jutting rock that protruded out into the sea. The island looked so green, soft and peaceful, it was quite a contrast to the large angry breakers confronting us wave upon wave. I watched the shore, gazing my attention upon it at least every five minutes just watching to see if we were passing the anchorage and the giant jutting rock. The anchorage, with its sailboats nestled in near the shore, was now well behind us. But the large jutting rock just seemed to be laughing at us as it didn't seem like we were ever going to pass it! Brad was concerned about our course since we had been 10 degrees off now for an hour or so. I kept thinking of ideas of how to get our boat to go closer into the wind or a way to tack and use the angle of the wind to our advantage. As it was, the wind seemed to be coming in the exact direction we were wanting to go and it made it very hard on us. However, after about an hour and a half either the wind changed a bit, or we did and we were able to steer close hauled as near to the wind as we could. This also helped keep our reefed mainsail from catching more pressure in it's sail than it could handle, because the wind was easily doing 20 - 30 MPH for sure by this time. I didn't get seasick for about an hour or two - but I didn't realize it was because I was sitting in the same position and hadn't moved around any. Brad went up on deck after he had taken an hours rest down below, and took down the jib - which was causing me a lot of stress due to the tremendous stress on it from the wind. With the jib down and the mainsail reefed we were doing so much better. But for Brad all the crazy tossing of the boat on the waves and him having his eyes off the waves made him get sick. I noticed his beard looked like it had salt water on it, but then realized he had thrown up over the bow. Brad then tried to make the jib into a storm jib by knotting down most of it. But he felt unsuccessful and came back into the cockpit. Later I examined the knots he had used to tie and lash the jib and was quite amazed. I've been practicing knots for a long time but couldn't make out his masterful knots! I told him later how amazed I was by them. And him having done all these knots with the boat tossing everywhere too! Ok, so then Brad came back to the cockpit.

Some hours had passed by now and we had come far north of the protection of Catalina in our journey at 1-4 knotts (depending on how we caught the waves). The waves were easily ten feet big if not bigger. We were passing through the shipping lanes now and every once in a while a huge ship would cross in front of us. I was watching the angle of the ships as I saw them on the horizon. Then I noticed a tug boat at an awkward angle to our own pulling a huge ship with large cables a quarter mile behind it. I must have not seen it as it was at an odd angle and the waves periodically hid it from view. When the angle did not change I began to get really concerned. I knew it was on a collision course with us and unless one of us changed course it would not be good. Brad encouraged me to come about and head back until the ship had passed. With the waves so big it would be a real challenge. But I carefully judged the next wave and after it had passed under us I had a minute in the trough to come about. So I did. The boat changed direction and I steered up the safest part of the wave. But as we came up over the wave the wind came so hard down on us it wouldn't let the main sail or the boom flip to the other side. Brad shared with me later that we didn't have enough power to get fully across the wind. So now the tug boat and the ship were on a direct collision course...

Captain Brad continues:

"The seas were so big that the sun was able to penetrate through them at an angle usually unwarranted for this part of the Pacific. The result was that the waves began to take on a slight hue of green and white. These are known as the infamous green water waves that legends and disaster are frequently made of. I was confident that things could not get any worst, when Albie began to yell something in a loud voice trying not to be drowned out by the gale force wind. Even though I was literally right next to him, all I could make out were the words “Ship” and then something about “run us over”. Instead of asking him to yell louder, all I had to do is look up in the direction he was pointing. Barreling down on us from the North was a 500 ton Foster tug with a massive steel barge in tow. We just could not imagine anyone else being caught out here in this nasty storm. What was even more unbelievable was the fact that the vessel was unmistakably what in nautical terminology is known as CBDR or constant bearing, diminishing range. In laymen’s terminology, on a collision course with us! Unfortunately, not only were we crossing within the freighter zone for commercial traffic, but even if we weren’t, a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver has supremacy even over a sailboat according to the International rules of the road, otherwise known as COLREGS. In other words, time to get out of the way, and quickly! On Albie's command we initiated the procedures to tack. There was only one problem. The boat was not responding to the tiller. NOOOOOO! Not now! But refuse it did. The steel ship was getting a lot closer by now. I’m sure the Master of the tug had tried to hail us on channel 16 VHF, but we decided to leave it off so the batteries would not be depleted in case of an emergency. I was actually glad we didn’t turn the transceiver on, because odds are we probably would have heard a lot of obscenities from the Tug Boat Captain by now. We were barely able to maintain steerageway as we clawed our way towards home, but did not have enough forward momentum to bring her about (to tack). We could have adjusted our sail and our course to accelerate, and then attempt to tack again, but there was no longer time to even think about that option. Things were getting very close now. Unfortunately, ships don’t have antilock disk braking systems, like a Ferrari convertible. In fact sometimes it may take a ship of that size over a mile to come to a stop. With a big barge behind there was not much recourse for the tugboat but to just run us over, and literally keep going. As the feeling of despair became more eminent, we again looked towards his vessel. He was trying to take evasive action by dramatically changing course so as to go behind us. “I hope he has enough room” I was thinking. Our only other option was to jibe, but I was certain that an attempt to do so would rent our mainsail to shreds, or cause serious damage to the standing rigging, which was already hanging on by a thread. --- After this close call, I suggested that Abie take a break, so that in case the worst was not over, he could regain some of his strength. As for myself, I was feeling chipper enough, but knew that I was not going to last forever under these circumstances. It was such a relief to know that I had Albie to relieve me when I couldn’t take it anymore. I am quite sure it would have been far more terrifying to be alone and even further out to sea like many single handers that have sailed around the globe alone.

Check Next week for the continuation of the story!

Thanks for your comments!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Catalina Gale: Part VI, Nightmare at Sea

Captain Brad Continues saga:

After this close call, I suggested that Albie take a break, so that in case the worst was not over, he could regain some of his strength. As for myself, I was feeling chipper enough, but knew that I was not going to last forever under these circumstances. It was such a relief to know that I had Albie to relieve me when I couldn’t take it anymore. I am quite sure it would have been far more terrifying to be alone and even further out to sea like many single handers that have sailed around the globe alone.

I was determined to steer “Canta Libre” until she and her crew were safely inside the shelter of the Harbor. I was holding the tiller with white knuckles, as it was almost ripped from my grip on more than one occasion from the tremendous force of the Ocean surging underneath our hull. I eventually began to shiver uncontrollably from the combination of being soaked to the bone and from the wind chill over eight or more straight hours

One usually resists throwing up as it is rarely a pleasant experience. More often than not, it is followed by a period of relief and then eventually subsides when it comes to matter of sea sickness. This time that was not to be the case. Despite years of working and being in some of the worst seas on the planet, I could not stop yakking, and no relief seemed to be in sight. I remember that for most of my life, I was completely and I do mean totally immune to motion sickness. I hate to admit it, but I would actually laugh and make fun of friends and acquaintances alike that would succumb to its powers. I guess this was time for payback. I will never ever make fun of anyone ever again, guaranteed. I was so weakened from the cold and dehydration by this time that I would be physically useless should any emergency arise. I ran through the hypothetical in my mind, that even if the ship were to begin sinking, I don’t think I would have lasted for more than a few minutes. Time to get Albie. As I cracked the companion way hatch open slightly, I tried to yell out for Albie to come relieve me for a while. Instead a faint croaking whisper emitted from my lips. The hydrochloric acids from my stomach had taken a toll on my throat and vocal cords. Despite this, Albion not only heard me but was quick to respond. It was trickier than I expected to be able to hand off the tiller to him without the boat being tumbled over. The timing had to be perfect, and it was.

 I had been anticipating this moment for hours now as I stumbled into the safety and shelter of the cabin, I was not prepared however for what I was about to witness. The entire interior of the boat was the unequalled example of chaos. The table was dispatched from the wall. Every item to have at one time been stowed in its place was cast on to the cabin floor and walls and corners. Intermingled throughout were perceptible chunks of vomit. 

My son Brad was seemingly passed out on the floor, although I do believe I saw his hand move in a gesticulation resembling a wave, perhaps to briefly acknowledge my presence. Louie was propped up against the starboard side with his head covered. Max was huddled up in the V-birth. No one seemed worried or concerned as to the situation, so I figured why not join the club. Besides, I had only one thought on my mind: To get dry, and lie down and rest. Even if it were only for a few minutes. I feebly, but as quickly as I could manage, stripped off my sopping wet shirt, and found a damp one to put on instead. Ah! To be seemingly dry. There is nothing to be compared to that feeling. I was feeling a hundred percent better already. I found a wonderful spot to lie down that had amazingly been left vacant by everyone else. I just barely fit, but it was otherwise perfect for what was next on my list of priorities, sleep. Although my whole body was being flung around to and fro as a result of the bow of the boat plunging into waves just to the other side of the thin fiberglass walls that surrounded me, I could not be dissuaded from the thought of closing my eyes and drifting off into a state of ecstasy. No sooner had I laid my weary head down when a compelling amount of water erupted through a gap in the forward hatch and descended down upon me in geyser fashion, drenching me with chilly cold salt spray. Well, being dry for one and a half minutes is better than not being dry at all. I tried to ignore the irratic showers of cold water that seemed to aim themselves at my face, but it was not an option. Every time a particularly big wave would engulf us, it would find its way to say hello to me inside the v-birth. So much for sleep and shelter. That’s roughly when I realized that I was still sea sick despite all. Max was watching me with empathy, as he generously handed me his personal barf bucket, that he had been hugging up to that juncture. I noticed that it was far from empty --- to hydrate myself unless someone had a bottle of 6% saline solution and an I.V. needle handy. I looked up and saw that he had a peculiar look in his eyes. It was a combination of him trying to be polite and respectful to his elders, and desperation all at the same time. And that’s when it dawned on me. I was hogging his bucket. So we kept passing it back and forth taking turns at fairly quick intervals to vomit, and then vomit some more. At around this juncture in time, I heard Albie calling out “Were not far away”. I climbed out into the cockpit again, just in time to see some huge following seas pushing us towards shore. 

We were virtually leapfrogging towards the rocks. Just on the other side of the rocks was the safety of the Harbor we were so earnestly longing for. But we were not safe yet by any means. We were surfing so quickly down the front of each wave that we would have to time the entrance like clockwork. 

If we turned too soon, we would be dashed on to the rocks. If we turned several seconds too late, the same would result. We changed our direction of sail to a quarter reach, so as to gain both a little more control and speed, and seemingly flew past the safe water buoy labeled RB, and in-between the red and green harbor entrance buoys, past the demarcation line. The British and most other parts of the world are under the AYALA-A system. When we fought the Revolutionary war back in the 1700’s we would switch the buoys around at night, so as to confuse the British ships, and make them crash into the rocks. To this day the United States and its influences are still under the AYALA- B system, which is the opposite of the British. Remember this next time you are sailing into port at night time in a foreign country. This means that as you travel clockwise around our country, the red navigational buoys are supposed to be on the starboard side of the ship (Red Right Returning). Just to make it confusing though, this does not apply to the inter-coastal waterways, or the Great lakes. Well, all history and navigations lessons set aside, we were safely home Alas (At last). 

The Harbor Patrol boat came out to escort us in. One of the officers had bet his Commander $20.00 that no one would be crazy enough to venture out in these conditions. I think he came out to get us just to win his bet. Regardless, when they heard we had just crossed all the way from Catalina, they were speechless. Of coarse we were glad for the assistance; since the waves had ripped our engine completely off the transom of the boat. 
Now that is some violent sea conditions! May it rest in peace.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catalina Gale Part VII: Reality of the Storm

Skipper Albie continues:

"It was at this time that Brad asked me if I would go into the cabin and get my wet things off and get some rest because he was going to need me in a couple of hours. I told him I would and was actually very happy to go in even though I really wanted to support him. At this time we had become aware of our own danger just being in the cockpit and we had buckled ourselves into the lifeline that Brad had so wisely set up before the trip.

Now I went below, thankful that Brad at least was buckled in. The first thing I noticed was that the table had fallen again and that everything had fallen all over the floor.

The cabin was such a disaster. I couldn't believe my eyes. And on top of that, Brad Jr had decided that the floor with all the mess was just the place for him to lie down (even though there was plenty of room in the v-birth for him and Max. This puzzled me greatly, but I was too sick to disagree and even too sick with so much up and down motion to do ANYTHING except lie down. I didn't even take any clothes off. I felt warm and that's all I cared about. I lied down in the V-birth and rested. I had no energy to do anything and just lied there listening to the sound of the boat rising up and down the waves and to that of my own thoughts and that of my stomach.

Sometimes I would even get sick just lieing there and throw up again. This time we would all pass and use the big gray bucket. It sounded like a throw up festival. First Brad Jr would throw up, then me then Max. Twice I even heard Braddock outside throwing up too. I never heard Louis though. He had some cloth over his face and I thought he was fast asleep, but I found out later he was really awake!

Now the sounds of the boat were extremely interesting. 

The wind was so powerful in the main sail that it made a whir or a purring sound not unlike that of an engine. I was amazed at the sheer intensity of the wind. I had never heard this much wind in my life. 

Then the lurching of the boat was quite amazing. This was so similar to that of a rollar coaster. Two weeks later when on Screamin' at California Adventure, I took the coaster in strides (hardly thinking it a big deal at all) having felt the very same motions for 10 hours on our trip. The boat would go up then down then lurch to this side and then that. Then up steeply then down steeply with a thud. Sometimes it would come down with such a crash that I thought we had hit a rock! But no - we just carried on. As long as the 'purr' of the 'engine in the sails' carried on, we knew all was well. Then we hit down and crashed again. This time it smacked with a violent shudder from the bow to the stern. It felt like the boat had been completely out of the water - even with a thousand pounds of weight down in the keel. I almost didn't want to look in the cabin floor as I was almost positive I would see water seeping in through the floor boards as a leak seemed so likely. But again - no. We just carried on again. The 'engine' would purr again in the sails and I would try to sleep. Once in a while the purring would stop and the boat would seem to lie dead in the water. But not even giving a minute and the boat 'engine' would start right back up again and the wind in the sails would move the boat back on course.

By now my wet socks were making me cold, so I happily took them off and put my feet in my daughters pink but warm sleeping bag.
I fell asleep a little and wondered if an hour had passed or even two hours. It only felt like an hour, but things were so strange I can't remember. At any rate Brad had had enough and opened the hatch calling for me.

I quickly rushed to put on my socks and opened the hatch to go out on deck. Just taking the hatch cover off and suddenly I was hit with the loudest wailing noise I had ever heard. It sounded like a war was going on outside. I literally was terrified of going back outside. The wind was screeching, the waves and water were moving and pounding against the boat, the sails were vibrating and the whole boat was heeled over and I would have to climb sideways out the door just to get out there..."

PS: Thanks for your comments!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Catalina Gale: Part VIII, Overlooking The World, Atop a Huge Wave

Opening up the hatch was like opening up Pandora's Box. The wind outside was gusting past 40 miles an hour and the howling of the wind in the sails and the huge monstrous waves crashing against the boat was frightening.

 I went outside feeling like I was entering a war. Immediately I found myself literally having to hold on for dear life as I had to CLIMB up the cockpit to reach the tiller. The boat was healed over 45% at least. I climbed into position and clicked my life tether in.

Brad's face was pale white and I honestly had never seen him like this before. I carefully moved into position to take over the steering. I could tell Brad was very cautious in giving over the tiller as one wrong move and the boat would be capsized. But Brad's need of rest overcame everything else and he moved down into the hatch. "Watch for the the blue whale wall of Redondo Beach." Brad said firmly before closing the hatch. "We're not too far off now."

 I nodded in agreement and looked around me. But with the huge seas all around me, I very much doubted I would ever see that wall. Still it gave me an objective and an understanding of where we were - as honestly I had only the faintest clue. Suddenly Brad was gone and I was alone to face the seas alone and the lives of all my dear friends was now completely in my hands. Taking a firm grip on the helm, I soon realized that holding onto the tiller was hard. The pressure of the water and waves against the rudder was intense. It took a lot of strength to keep the boat on course. The waves were huge 'mountains' all around me. I could see the next line of waves coming at us with cascading white foaming tops high on their peaks. All I could do was try and aim the boat for the least menacing waves. We headed down the trough and the world was lost all around me. Only the tremendous size of the waves surrounded me. I remember one dangerous looking one in particular that was steep and cresting and thinking that it would be all over if I was forced to take that wave on.

 Fortunately we passed it on by - as we did most all of the worst looking waves. I still believe that this was a matter of my efforts mixed with chance. And somehow afterward I knew God was watching over us too. At the top of the next wave, suddenly I was met with tons of water and spray. With the fierce wind hitting the boat, as we got towards the top of the wave, we sped right through the top of the wave and crashed right out of it and landed with a bang on the opposite downward slope. I knew this could hurt the boat and I wondered how much it could take! I tried desperately with all my being to stop this from happening and four out of five times I was able to slow the boat down enough so this wouldn't happen. Despite all my efforts I could not prevent it every time, however. And as this all happened, water flew over the bow, washing right into my face. My tongue could taste the salty water in my mouth. At first the taste was welcome as the salt took away some of the over-taste of throw up still left in my mouth. As far as the wet cold water, I didn't notice it too much because of my layers of clothes and the sailing wet gear Brad had let me use over top of it. In fact I was quite warm - except for my cold hands gripping the tiller. And so it went on for another two hours like this.

At first, the little sleep I had gotten had taken most of the seasickness away. But after a little time with all the continuous heavy motion, I began to get sick again. But throwing up was not hard as the boat was often angled at forty-five degrees and all I had to do was 'aim and fire' right into the ocean - so to speak and continue on. Actually, throwing up made me feel better - for a while. But the sickness seemed to always come back and soon I had nothing to throw up and I was just dry hacking. Still, I was in control to the best of my ability and there was really no other choice if we wanted to live. And then I noticed the mountain range near San Pedro. Very soon after this, I saw the orange fishing buoy (I had seen at night on the way out toward Point Vicente) show up atop of a big wave far in the distance. I now knew we were near Redondo Beach. This gave me a lot of hope!

 At some point I began to notice that the waves were coming from behind instead of aiming themselves at our bow. I'm not exactly sure when this happened, as I was feeling very worn and fatigued after an hour an a half of all of this. I almost didn't care anymore as I was beginning to lose it. But at least I still held on and aimed the boat in the right direction. Suddenly I looked behind and noticed a huge breaking white wave looming up behind me. I knew that if it caught up with us it would swamp the cockpit and tons of water would enter the boat. Already half a foot of water was in the cockpit floor, flowing back in forth with the motion of the boat (the water was half mixed with gasoline too - as the smell was horribly present. Hours ago Brad and I had tried to figure our where the gas was leaking from. The gas tank was clearly closed - so it was a bit of a mystery really). But that was the least of our problems. Thankfully the hatches were all closed and most of the water would not get in. But still I was fearful. I tried my best to aim away from the wave that was looming from behind but it followed us like a guided missile and soon the boat rose up to its ugly white head. As soon as I expected the horrible drenching, suddenly the boat's stern rose right up on the white water - hardly letting an inch of water come in!

 I was so ecstatic thanking God we had escaped it! We were closing in on Redondo Beach as I suddenly saw the blue whale wall Brad had spoken of. I could only see the wall on the top of the big waves though. It was kind of like being atop a big hill looking over the world.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catalina Gale: Part IX The Last Two Hours...

After Eight Hours In the Gale:

 I tried to let Brad rest as long as possible but when I saw the blue Whale wall, I cried out through the raging wind:

"Brad! We're nearly back!"

 Soon his head popped out of the hatch and placing the doors back in, he climbed up the very steeply sloping cockpit and joined me on deck. After clicking his harness into place, he looked around. I was used to the loud hissing of the wind beating across the water at forty miles an hour but I'm sure to Brad (after resting in the semi peaceful cabin for a couple hours) the sound was startling. Besides this, I know he was interested to see how the huge waves were towering from behind us now.

 "Brad we're going to need to let out the mainsail." I cried above the roar of the waves. "The wind is starting to come from off our back quarter."

 Brad looked at the sails and the waves with a grim face. "If we're not careful, the force of the wind will tear off the mast." He almost yelled. "But you better do it! We don't have a choice."

 Quickly, but carefully I let Brad hold the tiller while I let out the main sheet and sail. We were thankful when the sail and mast held against the furious wind that was now blowing from astern. Atop a giant mountain of a wave, Brad looked forward as I pointed to the Blue wall of Redondo beach. He looked at me with a happy grin. But the war was not over yet! I had been losing strength and was so glad to see Brad come back on deck. I was feeling very sick and had almost begun to care less what the waves were doing beyond my peripherial vision. I had enough strength left to focus on steering the boat through the waves in front of me but that was almost all the strength I had left. Now that Brad was back, its as if I came back to life again! With pleasure I handed the tiller back to Brad to take us in.

 We still had a little ways to go with huge waves still bearing down on us but we were so close to safety we could taste it. All I had tasted up to this point was a non stop deluge of salt water in my face, mouth and eyes each time we passed through a waves white foaming water. Now we were almost home! I still could not believe we were this close. An hour ago I was not at all sure we would make it back. It had only been five hours back when I had prayed and found Gods peace. Home had seemed like a thousand impossible miles away.

 And though it was not all that sudden, to me time had seemed to speed up. Redondo's bell buoy appeared among the foaming waves. The huge waves pounded with fury into the stone breakwater to our left. And then we about surfed in the entrance on this cresting wave. With a simple turn of the tiller the boat heeled dangerously to broadside along the wave as we sped into the still waters of Redondo Beach harbor.

 Suddenly, all was an impossible stillness - like...heaven! No more falling and lurching up and down twenty foot waves and feeling the wind whip across your face at terrific speeds. The peace was startling and so sudden and so majestic. We all seemed to breath freely again. Inside all of our hearts the confirmation we had made it home safely was now spoken. I pounded on the hatch and then opening it, we all began to laugh at the terror we had just passed through.

 "This has been the worst day of my entire life." Max yelled laughing.

 "Well at least you now have one!" I laughed back.

 Later in the jacuzzi at Brads marina, we all sat and laughed in amazement of what we had just survived. The spa water was so hot and relaxing - we couldn't believe we were there! Only an hour ago we had been cold and wet and battered. The warm water was quickly taking off the years of stress and white hairs we had added to our bodies in the eleven stressful hours it took us to cross the channel. The Catalina Gale had been implanted in our minds for all time and we all knew it!


 PS: Thanks for your comments!

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