Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Escaping from the Slathering Jaws of Death

Some people do this well and other people just wind up dead I have noticed during my life. I think you have to have enough instinct or intuition about you so that you know what is going to kill or might before you even try to do it.

But then again that's just me.

I was asking my wife about Hobie Cats which are small two hulled sailboats built for speed with usually just a flat canvas to sit on, a tiller, two hulls and a sail and they often can go 20 to 25 miles per hour in a good wind (if you are lucky).

She said she wouldn't sail in one anymore because her worst sailing experience in her life was in a Hobie Cat and then proceeded to tell me of a friend when she was growing up in Santa Barbara who had been caught out to sea in a Santana (desert wind off the desert going off shore) which can be huge in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego when they occur. She said her friend had to tread water after being overturned by a Santana out to sea there and expected to die there that day for about 7 hours until someone realized she was gone and hadn't come back and went and rescued her out to sea.

This reminded me of one of my experiences with my 5 year older cousin in 1968 when he first bought his Columbia 22 sailboat that sleeps 4 to 6 people sort of like having a camper to go to Catalina and other islands between Santa Barbara and San Diego.

So, we didn't know anything about sailing. I thought my cousin who had just become a lawyer knew more than I did but I realize now that wasn't much and that mostly he was going on Bravado alone just like I did when I was under 27 years of age an not married yet  (I got married at 26 and I think he got married around 27 or 28).

So, as we were going out of the harbor at Marina Del Rey we noticed Red Flags up and wondered about that and why no other boats at all were going out that day. I had brought my girlfriend ( who decided that day never to sail again after her experience) and me who brought my SCUBA tank and wet suit because I wanted to SCUBA dive at Malibu. So, we sailed up the coast to Malibu but when I got into the water it the currents were really crazy and this dropped the visibility a lot and so I climbed back into the boat. My cousin was angry for some reason (I didn't understand yet) at me somehow because the anchor had fouled on seaweed and he couldn't bring it up. So, after yelling at me to deal with the anchor I started to get sea sick a little because of the boat bobbing around so much but I finally got the anchor up and unfouled from the seaweed and then began to notice that the sea was getting really rough. I looked at my girlfriend and she looked pretty terrified at this point because she had no idea at all what was going on. My cousin and I looked at each other and knew we might be in trouble at this point.

My cousin didn't tell me then but he was considering at this point beaching the boat. However, the waves hitting the shore were between 5 and 10 feet so in beaching the boat it might kill us when the boat heaved over because of the big keel at some point. So, he decided against it.

One thing saved us.

The storm was headed towards Marina Del Rey. We tried to pretend everything was okay so my girlfriend didn't get hysterical. She was white as a sheet and scared though. My cousin and I laughed a lot at the situation which might not have helped her at the time either.

But that was how we were (pretty ballzy) at the time and able to face almost anything because of our youth (he was 26 and had just passed the bar and become a lawyer in California and I was 21 at the time.

So, by surfing with the boat down the 16 to 20 feet rollers towards Marina dell rey for an hour or so from Malibu (likely the fastest time by sailboat in this class ever,  we made it back to Marina Del Rey.

It was an amazing experience thinking back upon it now because we would literally surf down a roller like a surfboard until we reached the trough of bottom of the swell and then the wave would come up behind us and we would be thrown up the side of the roller from behind while also surfing the wave at the same time. At some point the wind (being blocked by the swells in the trough would hit us near the top and pull the boat over that direction and then we would go backwards down the swell as it went faster than us. Then again as the swell hit us from behind our boat was surfing down the swell as it overtook us.

And on and on until we safely made it back somehow to Marina Del Rey.

Note: Added later: I realized to make you understand just how dangerous this was I should say that the seas were higher than the top of the  mast. So, when we were in the trough the tops of the rollers were higher than the ships mast. This meant that the scariest thing was if we were broadsided by the rollers and were flipped over on our side and capsized. I think we took most of the sails down and tried to motor sail it back because the conditions were just so insane we needed every help to just stay alive and survive this experience at the time and in some ways we barely did. For my cousin and I we were laughing most of the time because we felt we had to enjoy this because we might die and it would be the last thing we ever did but my poor girlfriend was just scared to death because she wasn't a physical adventurer like my cousin and I by nature.

Also, there is no wind in the trough but then extreme winds at the top of the rollers. So, you were constantly changing conditions as the rollers passed by pushing you forwards luckily towards Marina Del Rey Harbor from Malibu. So, you were either surfing forwards down the rollers or surfing backwards down the other way as they passed, then you were in the trough for a moment until you were surfing forwards and then backwards again all the way to Marina Del Rey. end note.

this was 1968 and likely my old girlfriend then has never gone on a sailboat since. But, being the ballzy guys my cousin and I were we likely went to Catalina to go snorkeling within the next month.

In a sailboat because a sailboat is slow that is usually a weekend trip because it takes several hours to sail there in a sailboat even if you motor all the way sometimes if the winds aren't right to sail in.

However, I thought that was an awful lot of work to and from Catalina but my cousin often sailed there with his wife and kids over the years.

My present wife who also grew up a heavy weather sailor with her Dad enjoys sailing still on my cousin's boat (he has a Catalina 25 now) whenever we go to Orange county where he now lives. But mostly we stay in the Long Beach Breakwater now because I get sea sick since I was about 32 or 33 years old when it gets too rough now.

Amazing Times!

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