Jim Tyler had an Ericson 30 sailboat, Sagittarius, that he raced on the bay; I used to crew for
him. One year he decided to do the MORC (Midget Ocean Racing Club) race to San Diego. It
started off of Baker Beach, just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it finished at San
Diego, after 4 days of mostly down-wind sailing. We didn’t win.
The race was cosponsored by the San Diego Yacht Club, so a number of boats stayed there
for a couple of days of partying before the long journey back home.
Pearls of wisdom gleaned on the way down -
● There are no time-outs during an ocean race.
● God does not ask you what kind of weather you want, He just gives you whatever He feels
like giving you.
● Fiberglass cockpit seats get cold as hell in the middle of the night.
● Ocean spray is not only wet, it is also cold.
● Don’t throw the plastic knives and forks overboard as they have to last the entire trip.
● If we go West looking for the wind, then it will come up from the East and get to every boat
in the fleet before it gets to us.
● If we go East looking for the wind…
● Usually there is a breeze from off of the shore at night, but not always.
● Kelp beds can really slow you down.
Fond memories of the trip down -
● After 3 days and nights of ocean racing, one bottle of wine got all 5 of us drunk.
● One day, in light airs in the Channel Islands, 4 of the crew were sitting on the low side of
the boat with feet dangling down close to the water, so that the sail shape would be aided by
gravity. And then the wise guy of the crew hollered out, “SHARK!!!” Imagine 4 guys sitting
on the deck, shoulder to shoulder, all scrambling like mad to get their feet back on deck. It
wasn’t pretty. (No, it wasn’t me who yelled shark.)
● Cranking what’s-his-name up the mast to unsnarl the spinnaker halyard.
The Long Journey Home
What has gone downwind from SF must go back upwind to SF. And going upwind is the
hardest part of the journey. We slowly worked our way up the coast from San Diego, heaing
for the Coho Anchorage that is to the east of Point Conception, one of the windiest and
lumpiest Points of the West coast. Usually the wind is the strongest in the daytime and
lightest in the evening hours. So usually people anchor at Coho in the afternoon to wait for
the wind to abate, and then go around Point Conception at night. But as we approached
Coho, the weather man said that the wind at Conception right now was moderate, so instead
of waiting for nightfall, we altered course and headed for Conception, happy as clams. As
soon as we got there though, the wind got stronger, and stronger, and stronger.
After we reefed the main and changed the headsail to our smallest jib, Jim said, “Not to
worry, I will go below and fire up my brand new charcoal briquette cabin heater so that when
you get off watch and go below, it will be toasty warm and comfortable.” Well it didn’t work
out that way. The chimney was plugged up, so the cabin filled up with smoke. Jim had no
way to unclog the chimney or to turn off the heater so the coals smoldered all night long. We
all spent the night in the cockpit. Miserable. Spray flying all over the place. We had to hold on
to keep from falling over as we were hit by wave after wave. No sleep. A touch of
seasickness. And then, in the middle of the night it happened – the apocalypse.
The sky lit up white/yellow/orange/green, and there was a hellacious roar. Oh hell, the damn
Russians must have dropped the bomb! We are all going to die!!! We should be hit by the
shock wave any second now. This is it! This is the when and where of my demise. I closed
my eyes, waiting. Then I thought, “What the hell, if I am going to die within seconds, I may as
well see and enjoy every last one of those seconds.” So I opened my eyes wide and looked
all around that surreal scene, and took everything in. And then – nothing. No big flash of
white. No big shock wave. No obliteration. None of that. The roar diminished. The sky lights
dimmed. And then, nothing at all. Back to situation normal – a dark and windy night, bashing
into wave after wave, spray flying all over the place, cold, wet, and miserable.
Finally it dawned on me. We had gone around Point Conception and headed north. What’s
up north from Conception? Vandenberg Air Force Base. And what do they do at VAFB? They
go around shooting off rockets! OMG, I hope that rocket wasn’t headed for Russia.
Sanity, returned, slowly.
By dawn, the wind had eased off a bit, the charcoal briquettes had finally burned out, and the
cabin had cleared of smoke. The rest of the trip was uneventful. Enjoyable even.
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