Imagine…..Singing just because you’re happy
Everyone knows that Super Heroes have archenemies. Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has the Joker and…Spiderman, the Green Goblin. Who knew commoners also have them. We met ours in Catalina…..He came to be known as…..The Weatherman. He proved to be a cunning, strategist lulling us, at first, into complacency.
We spent our first few days in Avalon as relaxed and content retirees. We strolled along the village streets, drank coffee in our favorite little restaurants and treated ourselves to a movie in the theater.
I realized, and accepted, the fact that my previous free-for-all shopping habits would no longer be possible on our meager Social Security income. The realization that extra money must now be saved for wine took hold. Our first lesson of retirement…..conserve money for your priorities.
In over-whelming heat and without even thinking of bringing bottles of water, we hiked out to Wrigley Gardens, discovering new- born baby squirrels behind a fieldstone wall.
Upon arrival, sweating and dying of thirst, we learned our second traveling retiree lesson. Always carry cash. With only a credit card to our avail, we were refused entrance and needless to say, the purchase of life-sustaining water. Third lesson…always bring your own water. Feeling that we were off to a good start with retirement rules, we repeated the exercise the next day and got it right.
Thoroughly enjoying our first retirement vacation, we decided to take the next step and sail up to the Isthmus to meet with two of our children for the week-end. For some reason in our relaxed, euphoric state of mind, we did not hear The Weatherman laughing.
Actual Notes from our sailing log:
We have convinced ourselves that the weather will be much better in the Isthmus. Based on our previous experience, our only concern is that the harbor will be full when we get there.
We are locked into the marine layer all the way. Winds are blowing. Waves are crashing onto the beam of the boat. We add another layer under our Alaska jackets and put another blanket over Charro.
We weren’t at sea very long before the skies turned gray, the wind came up and the ocean started to roll. It didn’t take long for me to get sea-sick. After several hours of solo sailing through the unexpected storm, Tony navigated the harbor on his own. I did manage to help lash the boat to the thrashing mooring and not fall in the water.
This trip became a mumbo-jumbo of trying to keep warm, stay on-shore to avoid the pitching and rolling of the boat, escape the inevitable sea-sickness on my part and still try to enjoy the company of our children.
A bit dazed, tired and stunned that one small harbor could get that rough; we limped back to Avalon under dark skies and heavy seas on Monday. Deciding this was just a fluke weather system, we agreed to wait until July before attempting another stay in the Isthmus. This time, I thought I heard laughing, but decided it was just the three-foot waves breaking on the hull of the Nelly Gray.
The wind and seas did not let up. Memorial Day came and went, leaving in its wake, crashed boats and broken mooring lines. Harbor Patrol boats sat at their moorings damaged from trying to save the boaters from killing each other. The weather did not lay down for three days. We spent most of our time fending off boats and, fortunately, took no damage.
Actual notes from our sailing log
As the hundreds of power boats prepared to leave, sustained twenty-five mile an hour winds kicked up out of nowhere. The ensuing chaos enveloped the harbor like a plague.
As the wind caught the fly-bridges of the on-the-move boats, the captains lost control of their vessels. They crashed into each other, one right after the other, fouled their props, hit the harbor boats and struggled to get their vessels back onto their moorings.
Still optimistic, we found ourselves with a couple of nice days in June and decided to sharpen our anchoring skills for our impending southbound trip to Mexico. A beautiful sea and sunny skies took us to a pretty little cove, halfway between Avalon and the Isthmus.
We anchored easily and set out to enjoy the day. We prepared ourselves a nice dinner on-board, passing on our plan to have a picnic on the beach. The sea had gotten a little rough. We finished our bottle of wine and went to bed, happy with our successes of the day.
At ten o’clock, our archenemy struck again. We awoke to the boat wildly pitching and rolling. The moonless night sharply diminished our ability to see anything at all, but we knew the shoreline was rocky.
For the next two hours, we worked at saving ourselves from crashing into the shore. Our dishes and anything loose flew violently around the cabin, as the wind howled.
Amazingly, our anchor held, but we swung around it at 360 degrees and barely missed the boulders protruding from the sea. At midnight, the full moon quietly rose from behind the mountain in front of us, the sea calmed to a reasonable level of safety and we sat the rest of the night, trying to ward off our remaining fears of death.
In the morning, we hit the sea running and hurried to the Isthmus. Tucked safely onto our mooring, a bottle of opened wine ready to be consumed, we both came to the same conclusion at the same time. This was happening to us on purpose. Someone, or something, was pulling the strings on our life. We had never heard of this prolonged type of weather on Catalina. It was summer, for God’s sake!
We began to analyze possibilities. We helped ourselves to more wine. It seemed to us, after many scenarios, that Fritz Coleman, our local weatherman had seemed rather bored for the last couple of months. No one could blame him. He had to deal with the constant sunny, warm California weather. What weatherman goes through four years of college to put up with that nonsense? Who better to pray for some exciting weather, and then get it? Of course, this theory made perfect sense. Our archenemy was Fritz Coleman, THE WEATHERMAN.
It turns out…fourth lesson of retirement…that knowledge is power. Tony had always told me, “Margo, always know your enemy. You will win the battle.” We took on The Weatherman with a fierce vengeance. We spent the rest of the summer studying the weather. We used his own systems, which he continued to confront us with on a daily basis, as study guides.
Tony Studying the Weather
Our new found knowledge gave us the courage to circumnavigate the island. We watched buffalo walk and sleep in the mountains and we were treated to eagles and their young flying over our boat, hunting their breakfast.
Actual Notes from our Sailing Log
Looking forward to this new venture and the possibility of seeing buffalo and eagles, and also, to completing our long-planned circumnavigation of this island. Just the kick in the butt we needed to get started.
At seven a.m. this morning, we let our mooring lines go and headed out to conquer the legendary, gut-wrenching, wind-driven, ocean swirling West End of the Island, in an attempt to reach Cat Harbor. The tales we have heard are enough to put fear into the devil himself.
The ever-present gray skies, filled with enough moisture to mimic rain continue to plague us. We’re a little grouchy, not enough coffee and never any sun. We dress in four layers, t-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt and our best form of protection, our jackets from Alaska. We are ready to face whatever.
I stay at the helm until my face freezes and then Tony takes over. I crawl to the protection of the dodger and pull my coat up higher around my neck. It’s July, for God’s sake.
As we pass each cove, the anticipation of the treacherous West End grows at a rapid rate. Signs of civilization disappear and only looming mountains dominate the coast. We are alone. Just us, the boat and giant rollers.
We can see it. There it is. The famous West End. It’s 8:30 in the morning. We haven’t had enough coffee. We aren’t ready for this.
Tony works his way around to the left. We are expecting terrifying winds, sea serpents breathing fire, devils from hell rising from the sea to reach out and grab the boat, sucking us into the eternal depths of the ocean.
What do we get? The most beautiful, amazing scenery anyone could imagine. Towering cliffs, endlessly being drenched in crashing waves. Pelicans and seagulls, flying the thermals across the cliffs. The sea rolled gently beneath us, guiding us towards Eagle Rock, as if the whole thing was just child’s play.
Passing Eagle Rock, the sea kicked up a little, throwing us around a bit, knocking down our egos just a tad.
Calming again, carrying on just enough to let us know who’s boss, the water mellowed and let us continue our journey.
An hour and a half later, we sit on our mooring, enjoying bacon and eggs, and patting ourselves on the back for conquering the sea serpents
We learned that in order to empty our holding tank, we had to tackle a floating dock rising up and down and backwards and forwards every time we pulled up next to it. I learned to jump onto it without killing myself, lash the boat onto the pilings and get the job done.
Actual Notes from our sailing log
As Tony maneuvered the boat towards the dock, I got ready to jump on. It floated away. One leg over the side, one leg on the boat. Watching the dock float away in the current, Tony re-maneuvered the boat and I re-positioned myself for a second try. The fifteen mile an hour winds did not help my plight. Again, the dock floated away.
We sat there watching the dock float around like a rubber duck in a bathtub. It occurred to us that this might be some kind of sick joke on the part of the Harbor Patrol.
Tony decided to approach the problem backwards. He positioned the boat sideways to the dock and waited for the wooden monster to float back. He yelled, “Jump” at the right moment and I jumped, landing on both feet with a thud. He yelled, “Grab the line,” and I grabbed the line, ran down the dock to secure it to the bow and then ran down the dock the other way to secure the stern line, all before the dock floated away again.
Tony became a master at the helm. I learned that I could put a boat on a mooring under the absolute best…and the absolute worst of conditions. We learned to get the boat back to the mainland with an overheating engine and no wind. We learned to install our flopper-stopper and stop the pitching and rolling of the boat and we learned how to repair a dinghy leaking air in the middle of cresting waves and blowing sand. Best of all, we learned how to stay one step ahead of The Weatherman.
The Isthmus Mooring Field
But most importantly, we learned to love and trust each other no matter what. It was quite a summer and…. only the beginning.