All Is Well That Ends Well


Imagine…Sea Creatures as your new best friends

Our next adventure is scheduled. Our plan is to sail the boat farther south than we have ever done in California. We are headed to Dana Point and we will do it from the extreme southern end of Catalina, a course we have never sailed.

We are happy and excited. We dress in our warmest winter clothes… after all it is August 2nd, Tony’s birthday and who would expect it not to be freezing cold in the middle of the summer, especially in southern California? We pull in our flopper-stopper, top off our fuel tank and set our course on our brand-new GPS and radar system. We’re off!
The sun comes up and the sea is beautiful. We can hear whales spouting and we enjoy hundreds of dolphin, leaping and pirouetting in the air, as they voraciously fish for their breakfast. Pelicans circle above us, intent on stealing anything the dolphin capture. Our music is drifting gently into the morning breeze and we munch on our breakfast of fruit and cheese. The winds are light, the sun is warm. We are on top of the world.

Actual Notes from our Cruising Log

Halfway across, our new radar and GPS system shut down. After many attempts and one threat, we got through to a technician at Raymarine and he was able to get us up and running again, albeit without any of the co-ordinates we had previously set.
As I spin into panic mode, I notice how calm Tony is. Fortunately, he had learned to chart courses, didn’t trust the GPS anyway and had been hand-charting our course on his chart all the way along. Is it no wonder I always feel safe with him?
We managed the Channel into Dana Point with ease, anchored like pros and spent the next week playing in the beautiful warm water, under a pretty blue sky. We sailed up to Alamitos Bay, spent time with our friends and attended our daughter’s baby shower.
Promising to return for the birth in September, we headed back to get more experience with our sailing skills in Catalina.

Our first major trip had been successful. We walked on air and could easily pat each other on the back. We felt we had come a long way.
The summer was quickly wrapping itself up and we decided to take the long way back to Alamitos Bay. Our newest grand-daughter was due on September 10th, and since we had done so well on our last trip to Dana, we wanted to re-visit it and possibly, sail a little further south to Oceanside. Besides, we now knew the course by heart and “what could possibly go wrong?” we asked ourselves.

Actual Notes from Our Cruising Log

Halfway down the island, we hit serious fog for about two hours…thick, soupy fog. Fog so thick, that when I went up on the bow to stand watch, I couldn’t see Tony at the helm. We had to use our radios to communicate. The radar worked beautifully and so did my air horn. At one point, three dolphins surrounded our bow, giving me quite a show in the milky air. After a near miss with a large power boat, that apparently couldn’t hear my horn over his engines, we broke through the fog into sunny, warm skies.

In hindsight, we probably should have gone straight to Alamitos Bay and skipped Dana Point.

Actual Notes from Our Cruising Log

The next day started out fine. And then, the wind came up. And then, the sea raised hell. And then, the giant multi-million dollar power boat, anchored in front of us, broke loose from his anchor, without the Captain on board.
We raced to fend off, but he hit us. The wind swung him back and we waited for him to come back at us. His wife, onboard alone, tried to help us fend off with the second hit. The Harbor Patrol appeared out of nowhere and the wife reached her husband by phone. Her words, stricken with panic, informed her husband, “Our anchor is drift….we just hit!” The wind pulled them back again, but the giant boat took aim at us again. The man showed up in his dinghy, but didn’t seem to know how to react. The Harbor Patrol yelled, “Take control of your vessel, Captain!” and he ran to his helm.
Tony held us off the best he could. I started the engine and joined the fending off party and Tony worried about him taking out our rigging. The sea was raging and the wind was howling. After many anxious minutes, the man got his boat away from us, but he could not pull his anchor up. It was just dragging across the bay, being pulled by the water and wind. He finally got it up above the water line and moved down into the channel. He eventually got the boat docked on an end-tie, but not without a lot of trouble. His anchor remained dangling from his bow. Damn these full moons!
Fortunately, we took no damage and survived nicely. Thank God! The man and his wife left the marina a couple of hours later. We remained on our boat on anchor watch. Hopefully, tomorrow we will head for Oceanside.

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. This lesson should have been learned on our first day of retirement, but is has taken a little while for us to acknowledge it.

Actual Notes from Our Cruising Log

The interesting thing about this adventure is that not a day goes by that you don’t learn something…sometimes something largely significant, sometimes mildly significant.
Today turned out to be a largely significant learning day.
For days, the weather forecasters had been warning surfers and swimmers about what they called a High Surf Advisory. We paid no attention. We weren’t going to be surfing or swimming. They forgot to warn sailors leaving harbors.
Engulfed in our innocence, or our stupidity, or our naivety or whatever, we casually steered the Nelly Gray up the channel, while putting up our sails. We sailed out past the breakwater and made a left, headed for Oceanside.
A roller, possibly the size of a ten-story building rolled under the boat, broadside. I turned to look at Tony and saw another coming at us only seconds away. And then, another. Nothing can describe the ride, sideways, down rollers this large and then, the immediate return up the side of another one.
Simultaneously, we agreed to turn around and go back. Simultaneously, we agreed to get a slip and have a quiet week-end. Simultaneously, we agreed to drink a lot.
We also agreed that we both had learned what a High Surf Advisory means.
We revisited Tony’s interpretation of the size of rollers. These particular rollers were larger than anything we had ever seen, so I asked him to categorize them. He had previously said if they scare him to death, he figured they were six to eight feet, so these rollers were large enough to make him move inland 500 miles.
We spent the next three days in a slip, eating out, playing on Wells Beach (our feet permanently planted on solid earth) and visiting the Ocean Institute.
A great time in Dana Point!

At this point, the best decision seems to be to return to Alamitos Bay and await the arrival of our grand-child. But alas, we can’t seem to do anything without a little drama.

Actual Notes from our Cruising Log

Great ride up. Seas calm, wind light, sun out. Figures. We’ll be grounded for about a month, so it stands to reason that the weather would turn nice.
As luck would have it, just when you think you’re safe, fate has a surprise in store for you.
Heading into the Seal Beach channel, I went to the bow to put on our dock lines. I, busily involved in my chore, hear Tony call to me to bring the jib line to him. I look up and two small engineless sail boats, filled with kids, are headed towards our boat, coming the wrong way up the channel. I race the line back to Tony and he tells me our engine died when he put it in reverse to avoid a collision.
We start to pull the jib out, to sail off the rocks we were heading towards, and the dock line I had been setting up wraps itself around the jib.
Tony tells me to keep the boat under control and runs up to free the sail.
Keep the boat under control? I have no steerage, no engine and my bow is pointed towards the solid rock jetty. Like I said before, not a day goes by without learning something. I learned that it is going to take more than this to give me a heart attack.
Suddenly, the wind caught the sail, I was able to steer the boat and we sailed up the harbor.
Ironic that as soon as Tony came back to the cockpit, the engine started. Think God may be testing us?

All is well that ends well. Our baby girl was born beautiful, healthy, happy and hungry, nine days after we settled ourselves in our old marina. Our friends waited with us for Kaylee Alana Winslow and we celebrated together.
Two weeks later, we returned to our adventure, none the worse for our trials and tribulations over the last four months, but a whole lot wiser, experienced, and happier than we had ever been.
Yes, a sailor’s mantra is that ‘All is well that ends well.’ This should unarguably be the first lesson a sailor learns. If we land our boat in safe harbor, hurting no one around us, or ourselves, our journey has ended well. This part of our journey had ended well for us. We thanked God, as all sailors do.