It’s about 9am on Saturday morning. I’m at a bakery having a great cheese sandwich and a fantastic coffee. I call my parents in Spain to confirm that, when the wind finally picks up, I’ll be heading out for my 400 miles 2010 SHTP qualification sail. After the call I head to the marina and start preparing the boat for the trip…
It doesn’t take me long to get things ready. Time to go. I start hoisting the main but somehow it gets stuck somewhere… the runners. It always happens… I clear them and keep hoisting. Then it gets stuck somewhere else… the runners again? nope. Then where…?
Last night I finished up all the preparations for the ‘big’ sail. I finished quite late but I managed to do everything on the list. The most difficult thing to install was the radar reflector. A huge octahedral metallic thing that should improve our chances to be seen by boats with radar. Because of race rules it has to be least 13 feet above the water, so I decided to install it between the spreaders. I had to go up and down the mast until everything was secured in place: a line to the top spreader, a line to the bottom one, a line to the shroud and… and…
And yes, I tied a line around the mast. And the main sail didn’t want to go up. I wonder why…
It took me about 10 minutes to fix it. Not a big deal but something really embarrassing at the moment and really funny to remember later on. OK, back to business, hoist the main, let the mooring lines go… and motor out. At about noon we’re already sailing. And of course, the wind had been blowing for almost an hour. Those precious lost minutes of wind on the sails…
NW winds at about 10 knots. My only real destination was to go to a point at least 100 miles offshore, while sailing at least 400 miles before coming back. Quite easy navigation, I thought. I’ll make my way out without getting into much trouble, trying not to hit any island nor beating too hard.
At about 5pm the wind slows down to about 2 knots from the West. I get into ‘get away from shore’ mode. But not too much later it stops. Zero Calm. Oh well, this is San Diego, it’s always light at night, this is normal, we’ll get some wind in a few minutes…
As it got dark and there was no wind to be found and lots of fishing boats around, I decided to spend the night on the cockpit. And I kept one eye open all night looking for fishing boats and making sure that I was not being drifted to the “US Navy vessel in a four point mooring performing underwater operations at 117 deg something and 32 deg something is requesting all vessels to keep 2 miles distance… for their own safety” about 6 miles south east of my drifting position. On a north-south current.
For the next 20 hours we had about two 10 minutes puffs that allowed me to get away from the Navy vessel (I wonder what they actually thought about me!). The rest of the night was dead calm.
At about noon a US Navy frigate shows up on the NW horizon, and she was getting closer quite fast to my drifting position (not strange, as I was pretty close to Mexican waters). And suddenly, when I was wondering if I should prepare coffee to welcome my visitors, something happens… wind!!!
It picked up fast, and in a few minutes I had my jib up and I was making 6-7 knots going West. Wind!!!!!!!!! It’s quite amazing how 20 hours of pain and frustration disappear with a bit of breeze. For the next 3 hours I hand steer on an almost lake-flat water with about 12 knots of wind on a beam reach. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
OK, I need a break. Food, water, some relax,… I press the ‘Auto’ button and go down below. A lack of noise coming from the autopilot drive and a lack of boat steering gets me back on the cockpit very fast. What’s going on? Press ‘Stop’, press ‘Auto’ again… nothing. Nothing!!! The dammed drive has decided that doesn’t want to work today!!
A fast evaluation of the situation by a very tired and excited mind (ie, me) gets me hand steering towards San Diego. I’ll try to get closer to shore and I’ll be trying to figure out what the problem is. I’m glad Koh Samia behaves quite well by herself with balanced sails, even with waves, so I could take short naps and or go down below to play with the electronics and the damaged drive without having to stop.
As it gets dark, we get closer to Mission Bay and I have not managed to fix the autopilot I decided to head in. Back home. End of my 400 miles qualifier. End of my 2010 SHTP dream.
And is at that moment, with about 12 knots from the SW in a dark night when we start heading home when I realize somebody is pointing at us with a very powerful light beam. But from where??? In fact they are not pointing us from the surface… it’s an underwater light! And it’s just in front of our bow! Shit, can this be one of the San Diego based submarines? Then I turn back and see two light sabres coming from my rudders… phosphorescence!!!
For the next couple of hours we surf the swell on a totally dark night enjoying the light of the water on our bow, and the fantastic strips of light behind the rudders. All while making about 7-8 knots of boat speed. It definitely doesn’t get any better than that. And, I must say, just for those few hours it was worth all the painful windless night
And next morning, we’re told that the qualifier period has been extended to June 12th because of light conditions in South and North California while most of the fleet was trying to do the qualifier. We’re back in! One extra month playing! And this is going to be lots of fun!
And now, about a week later, after some time to think about the previous weekend, and understand what was wrong with the autopilot (burned motor, gracias Jose Miguel!), and that there is nothing wrong with the electronics (thanks Marc and everybody who has helped me with this!). We’re already planning for next weekend. For our 400 miles qualifier for the SHTP version 2.0. Però aquest cop si!
One thing I’m sure. There will not be yang without yin. And we’ll be expecting them.