Tag Archives: Sailing

Shaking Down My Boat

It’s Wednesday, two days before the start of Transpac 2011 for my boat Katana.  I got up at 5AM to get ready to leave with my crew to go to Long Beach, California to board the boat.  My doggies seemed to know “something was up,” and they were all exhibiting a “hangdog” demeanor as I readied to leave.

We arrived at the boat at Noon and I was way too hungry to do any work.  All 9 of us went to lunch at Gladstone’s, a local restaurant.  I had an ahi tuna sandwich on honey bread – fabulous (and you know how I love to eat).

We discussed basic concepts of neatness, orderliness, and hygiene.  Nine people on rotating schedules on a 47 foot boat over more than seven days requires all of us to take care of our things for safety, for the comfort of others, structure, and overall atmosphere. Kevin Miller, our tactician, remarked anything left about “below” deck might end up in the ocean – depending on his mood – so we all know neatness really will count!

We’re getting the boat ready for a two hour sail in order to check out all the remedies to small problems that always seem to pop up on a boat, as well as to make sure a repaired sail is perfect.  Tomorrow, we’ll spend half the day on the boat continuing to check all systems and get the food and gear organized.

We’ll have our “last supper” on land for quite a while tomorrow evening, then hope we can all get some good sleep in spite of our anticipation and excitement.

I go back and forth between nervousness and calm.  I’m more than confident because of my crew and all the time and extreme effort we put into practice overnight runs, we’ll be just fine out there on the open seas.

If you told me 5 years ago I would be doing this, I would have said you were crazy.  I’m 64 years old and am thrilled not only to be able to be so active, but to be able to take on such a challenge to mind, body, and spirit.

If there is anything you can take from my adventure, it is you should never let fear stand in the way of squeezing the most out of life.  For a life to feel “good,” it has to be filled with purpose, friendships, and adventures.

Getting Ready for Transpac – A Sailboat Race to Hawaii

This is my last day of preparation before TRANSPAC – the sailboat race from California to Hawaii in which I’m participating.  I have to organize all my gear (which is easier for guys who seem able to live in the same clothes for days and days).  Since we start out with cold weather and end up with very warm I have to bring a range of layers.  I don’t have much subcutaneous fat so I am cold when the guys are in t-shirts, shorts, and flaps!

Today I shop for my last piece of gear: a hat which keeps the sun off my face and neck – a necessity the closer we get to Hawaii.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we all meet in Long Beach early to take KATANA (my boat) out for a shake down; we will do the same thing Thursday.  Thursday night we will have our “last supper” on land for a week or more.

Friday morning early we will get on Katana and get ready for the start.  It seems funny in a way that we will be revving up for a great start when the race is a week or so in duration and over 2200 miles.  But, as it turns out, every second of every day counts.  People have won by minutes or seconds!

We will all be on deck for the 1 pm start until 6 pm.  Then our “watches” begin with teams having different schedules.  I will be the 6 pm to 10 pm watch.  At 10 pm I go to sleep for 4 hours.  At 2 am ’til 6 am I am on watch again.  On watch means you are on deck sailing the boat and responsible for everything.  Two of us have the same watch and two others overlap by 2 hours. 

If there is an emergency or a major sail change…everyone may be called on deck.  It takes a few days for all of us to acclimate to the schedule without feeling “weirded out”. 

I love the 2 am to 6 am watch….well….I don’t like the 2 am part….but I like being up for the sunrise….it is beautiful out on the ocean at sunrise.

In the midst of all of this we have to take time to eat and clean ourselves up. 

Just in case you wondered….we are all a little wound up; even the folks with experience.  Butterflies are normal – it is a major undertaking and huge responsibility.  None of us take it lightly.

That’s all for now…I will write more tomorrow after we get to Long Beach and go aboard KATANA.

My Sailing Adventure on the High Seas

By this time, you’ve probably heard that Katana, my new race boat, did not finish the 800 miles to Cabo San Lucas.

I took ownership of Katana one week before the start of the Newport Beach to Cabo race (which we won last year in all three categories).  The point of entering this race was twofold:  1) to qualify for TRANSPAC (“Trans-Pacific” – a race from Los Angeles to Hawaii) in July – my ultimate dream, and 2) to shake the boat down and get her perfectly ready for TRANSPAC.

Days before we started the race, we were concerned about the weather forecasts – high winds and high seas – which were unusual for the Cabo race at this time of year.  The night before the race, it seemed most ominous, but by morning, it seemed a bit less so.  We started the race prepared for bad weather, which was forecast to begin on Sunday, but the storm conditions moved in quickly.  The boat was handling the confused seas and high, gusty winds very well.  Our one big issue was the number of serious leaks filling the front of the boat with ankle high water (I didn’t know it in advance, but some of the seals had not been finished in time – ugh!).

One of our crew became seasick in spite of wearing the “patch,” and became incapacitated.  As the conditions worsened, as the skipper, I decided to turn the boat around and head back to San Diego.  My boat is 47 feet long, and a number of larger boats (up to 70 feet) had already turned around.  Some boats were damaged and turned around for safety reasons.  Even we blew out two downhauls (jib and main), but the boat was still seaworthy.  Since this was a test run for the boat, I saw no reason to risk the crew (we all wore life vests and were always tethered in while we were on deck).  Basically, this wasn’t fun, and the conditions were worsening, and I simply did not want to risk the welfare of my crew/friends.  They all have families and ultimately, I am responsible for everyone when aboard my boat.

When we turned around, we were now going downwind on crazy waves, and the boat was doing over 20 knots – that WAS fun!

We thought we were safe when we closed in on San Diego Harbor, but the nightmare was just beginning.  As we approached land, I told my crew that once we got her in a slip, we would button her up and clean her up in the morning.  It was going to be time for a hot dinner and hot shower and then a warm bed.  But it was not to be.

We dropped the main and tied her up.  The a squall hit us with ferocious winds.  We dropped the jib, and I tried to turn on the engine, but the propellers wouldn’t work.  We were now without power, and huge winds were pushing us into the rocks.  It was so ironic – after dealing with the open ocean, we were in dire trouble so close to safety. My boat captain, Kit Will, and tactician immediately got a small jib (foresail) up, so that we could have some steerage and for 1 1/2 hours, we made circles while my navigator and I tried to get the Coast Guard to help us as well as Vessel Assist.

Frankly, I was devastated to realize that the Coast Guard would not come out and help us (I guess their budget cuts call for coming out after disasters occur), and Vessel Assist was not readily available.  After my navigator had several calm discussions with the Coast Guard, I got on the phone and told them we were in deep trouble of losing the boat and the crew against the rocks and we needed help now!  Finally, a Coast Guard cutter came out at the same time as Vessel Assist arrived, and we were towed into the slip.  Remember, all of this was taking place during a squall.

The next morning, Kit, my boat captain, jumped into the frigid water to check out our propellers.  Unbelievable.  A two-cent length of fishing wire, complete with hook, was wrapped around the propeller!  That is all it took to put nine people and one boat in serious trouble.

When we finally made it to a hotel, it was 11PM, and all we could do was order pizzas from a local establishment that still delivered at that hour.  We were exhausted, soaked, and seriously tired.  We put away a lot of pizza, the guys had beer (delicate little me had a glass of wine), and boy, did we all ever sleep through the next morning.

It was the most challenging experience on the water for me so far.  My crew was amazing when it came to handling all the different types of situations that cropped up.  It took me most of the week to get my energy back, but now I’m ready for our next adventure: a race known as “The Border Run.:”

Thank you for all your good wishes and support.  If you have any questions, please go to DrLaura.com, sign up for the Dr. Laura Family, and email me.  I’ll do my best to answer.

The bottom line for a sailor?  We all came home safe.