The Matey arrived at 9:30 am on the dock at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club in Channel Islands Harbor on Saturday morning, July 13th, to join the merry crew of Misfit for the 29th annual Milt Ingram Trophy Race.
It was my first race of the year on Misfit – and my sailing skills were rusty, if not wholly atrophied. So, I was glad to hear from Captain George that my primary duty would be to man the mast: hauling on halyards to raise sails. It’s a job that requires less sailing skill than a healthy bit of blue collar sweat equity.
And, of course, I’d be adding my weight to the rail and doing the kind of hiking one doesn’t do in Yosemite.
In the hour before we embarked for the starting line, the young sailormen, Sean and Andy, got down to the expert business of rigging lines and preparing sails for deployment during the race. I’ve assisted in such work in the past, but I’m not an expert like these guys. If I pack a spinnaker there’s a good chance it’ll fly out of the bag and wrap itself into an unholy tangle. Experienced salts like Sean and Andy make damn few mistakes – which is one of the main reasons why the good ship Misfit has been on a winning streak.
We sailed out of Channel Islands Harbor and made for the Mandalay Buoy, where the race was scheduled to start at 11:00 am.
Instead of the classic Greek epic poet Homer’s “wine dark sea”, we sailed across a slate grey sea under a pewter sky.
The Santa Barbara Channel would mostly stay various shades of grey all day.
As we jockeyed for position among the crowd of racing yachts tacking and jibing between the committee boat and Mandalay Bouy, I was glad to have Captain Eric at the helm. If anyone could avoid a collision and get us off to a good start, Eric would. He knows what Misfit can do – and he’s got nerves of steel. When the gun went off for the start, we were second across the line, just a boat length behind the leader.
The course for the Milt Ingram Trophy Race would take us from Mandalay Buoy to oil platform Grace, then around the west end of Anacapa, across the backside of the island, then a final northwest run to the finish line inside Ventura Harbor.
After rounding platform Grace to port, Eric put us on a course for the western headland of Anacapa – through the gap between that island and Santa Cruz. As we neared the passage between the islands, we watched with interest as a large oceangoing freighter churned through the shipping lane past Santa Cruz and across the gap.
Now, I’ve been in this situation before. It’s hard to gauge how fast these big ships are going from a distance – and small sailing vessels like Misfit must definitely give the big boys a wide berth. In the past, I’ve had the experience of guessing wrong on the big ship’s trajectory and having to heave-to at the last minute, dead in the water, and let the leviathan go by. Such a miscalculation can cripple your chances in a race like this.
As it turned out, the large ship crossed safely in front of us and, as we entered the passage between Anacapa and Santa Cruz, a pod of leaping dolphins celebrated our good fortune by frolicking across our bow.
Rounding the western end of Anacapa.
As we sailed past the backside (or ocean side) of Anacapa, I saw the day’s very first bit of blue sky above the island’s white, bird-poop covered cliffs.
As we neared the eastern tip of the island, there were just two boats ahead of us. However, due to the arcane rules of yacht racing, those two boats had ratings that required them to “give” us time. In other words, even if they finished ahead of us, they needed to finish a good deal ahead of us to win. So, we were very possibly, under the rules, actually leading the race.
Note: This rating system apparently has to do with the size of the boat, the length of its waterline, its design and the amount of sail it can legally raise to the wind. There may also be other factors. I have no clue. I just haul the lines I’m told to haul, help to frantically gather in flapping sails, haul on the working line when we jibe, and shift my bulk from port to starboard on command. Ratings are above The Matey’s pay grade.
After rounding the eastern end of Anacapa and that sea-carved rock arch featured on a thousand postcards, Eric put us on course for the finish line in Ventura Harbor.
Now, we were sailing into the wind – and the choppy swells started splashing up against Misfit’s bow.
Captain George and Tom on the rail.
It was just a matter of timing and geometry before the rail meat – George, Tom and me closest to the bow — would be drenched by a sudden cascade of cold salt water.
It didn’t take long.
But ultimately, that salty baptism was like an early champagne celebration – because Misfit won the race.
Andy, Tom, Sean and Eric arriving in our home port after the victory.
Here are the final race results: another victory for Misfit — and another exhilarating adventure in the Santa Barbara Channel for The Matey — thanks to Captain George and his crew!
When you see a sailboat racing through the waves, heeled over in a stiff breeze with a line of guys hanging over the high, windward side of the boat – those seemingly sedentary sailormen are what is known as “rail meat”.
And that’s what I was on August 20, 2011 aboard the good ship Misfit as we contended against the elements and our adversaries in the Tri-Point Ocean Race, the last contest in PierPont Bay Yacht Club’s 12th annual Island Series, staged in the waters of the glorious Santa Barbara Channel.
The crew of Misfit (who would appropriately be referred to as “Misfits” in the Royal Navy), and her resolute, seamanlike captains, George Moll and Eric Schlageter, were in an anticipatory mood. We left the dock at Channel Islands Harbor that morning knowing that a good finish in the day’s race could secure the overall Island Series trophy in the Spinnaker A class.
With the Island Series title within grasp, our Captains made a critical decision: put the young guns to work – and put the “old guys” on the rail.
Thus, the talented, enthusiastic and very salty youngsters, Shaun, Geno, Cody and Reed were tasked with switching out headsails, hauling the spinnaker in and out, trimming the mainsail, and many other critical duties that us “old guys” had performed in the past. The “old guys”, Claude, Tom and The Matey (that’s me) were relegated to the role of human ballast.
To appreciate “rail meat” one must understand “ballast”, which is, according to Merriam-Webster, “A heavy substance placed in such a way as to improve stability and control (as of the draft of a ship or the buoyancy of a balloon or submarine).” I, and my ancient mariner brethren Tom and Claude, were that “heavy substance.” (After devouring his signature sandwich, Tom may have been the heaviest substance.)
Youngster Cody (L) is employed at something technical. "Old Guy" Tom (R) adds his weight to the rail. As Lord Nelson himself once said, "They also serve who sit and hike!"
The Tri-Point, like many races in the Santa Barbara Channel starts at the Mandalay Buoy off Ventura Harbor. While we jockeyed for position among the cluster of boats in our Spinnaker A class just seconds before the start of the race, our Temporary Co-Captain Todd (who may be the most entertaining, crude and colorful yachtsman in the entire Santa Barbara Channel) was at the tiller. As the seconds ticked down to the starting gun, Todd sailed us toward the starting line.
On approach, it appeared that we would either get off the line first — or sail across scant seconds too soon…
As Misfit was about to cross the starting line, one of our competitors, Rival, was sailing down the line on our starboard side: parallel to and just below the starting line — perpendicular to our line of sail. In simple terms, they were headed right for us and would likely strike us amidships!
Under the arcane rules of the sea (which I cannot always claim to understand), Misfit evidently had the right of way – but with Rival bearing down on us, seconds from the start, with scant room to maneuver, a collision was imminent!
Youngster Reed and I were on the starboard rail, stationed on either side of the shrouds, closest to the increasingly obvious point of contact: the fateful juncture at which Rival’s bow would smash into us. Seeing what was coming, I scuttled over to the port side — just as the sickening crunch of fiberglass and the shouting of manly curses could be heard. We sheared off to port and sailed tightly back around the starting buoy, hurling epithets at the malefactors aboard Rival as we crossed the starting line again and began our race in earnest.
Luckily, the damage to Misfit was minimal — a small gouge in the deck too damn close to where I had been sitting. Our chief adversary, a larger boat named Radio Flyer, had just a slight lead on us. Rival trailed us. The race was on.
The three points of the Tri-Point racecourse are the oil platform “Gina” and the two ends of Anacapa Island, finishing in Ventura Harbor — a distance of 34 nautical miles. We raced toward Gina, rounded to starboard, and made for the south end of Anacapa with its picturesque arch and sheer cliffs caked white with eons of seabird guano.
I’ve had many experiences sailing the backside of Anacapa — a long, thin land mass broken into three sections with plunging, narrow gaps that nothing but a kayak dare pass through.
Because of its tall cliffs and sudden gaps, the winds along Anacapa’s backside can vary widely – and quickly. A sailboat racing across the backside of Anacapa must quickly adjust to these shifting conditions. So, therefore, must her contingent of rail meat.
As I described earlier, sailors serving as rail meat are only “seemingly sedentary” — and on this day, the “old guys” wound up doing a lot more work than you might expect. Because on a sailboat as nimble in light winds as Misfit, there’s a constant need to shift the ballast in order to maintain an even keel and sail the boat at its greatest level of efficiency. And since the winds were not always light or consistent this race day – especially on the fickle backside of Anacapa — the rail meat had to scramble from side to side, back and forth from port to starboard – often on the same tack.
With the deck shifting dramatically and the boom swinging side to side, all that scrambling can be hazardous — and, indeed, Claude got clocked by the boom, leaving a substantial knot in his forehead. (Of all the knots a sailor must learn, the knot in the forehead requires the least amount of skill.)
While the “old guys” manned the rail throughout the race, nearly all Misfit hands would serve as rail meat at some point. Depending upon the wind conditions, especially along Anacapa’s backside, there were times when all available crewmen were hanging over the rails – “hiking out” — to keep our keel in the ocean.
“Hike out, boys! Hike hard!” was the constant, emphatic command. The more the wind heeled Misfit over, pushing the leeward side of the boat dangerously close to the water (and a potential “knock down”), the more weight must be brought to the windward side to balance the ship. The further that weight can be extended out over the windward edge – the better. So rail meat must “hike out” – hanging as far over the lifelines — and over the side of the boat — as flexibility, courage and intelligence will allow.
Tom & Capt. George hike out. When needed, even the Captain must serve as rail meat.
“Hiking out” can be the whole ballgame when you’re racing a sailboat in a stiff wind. How fast can you go and still keep your keel in the water? That’s the critical calculation: because if the keel ever comes out of the drink — it’s game over.
And call vessel assist!
Here’s what the keel looks like from the POV of us rail meat. As you can clearly see, the keel is still underwater. If it wasn’t, I couldn’t have taken this picture. I would’ve been thrashing around in the ocean, hoping my life vest would inflate as advertised.
“Hike out, boys! Hike hard!”
In little more than an hour, Misfit circumnavigated Anacapa Island — and headed for the red whistle buoy at Ventura Harbor. The crew ate their sandwiches, raced toward Ventura, and tried to calculate handicap times based on the relative ratings of the boats in our class. (Who had to give time? To whom did we have to give time? We knew that Radio Flyer had to give us plenty of time — but how far ahead of us did she cross the finish line?)
After the race, Captain George savors our Island Series victory.
As it turned out, we finished second in the Tri Point Ocean Race – just seven minutes off the lead. (We probably lost at least two minutes due to our starting line kerfuffle – and a few more when the youngsters had a bit of bad luck flying the kite (spinnaker) after we rounded Anacapa and made for Ventura. Us “old guys” had been there before, done that many times. (Hey, Claude, remember that red “devil rag”?)
But in this case, second place meant first place.
Because, combined with our second place finish in The Hardway, and our third place showing in the Milt Ingram, our runner-up placement in the Tri-Point clinched the Island Series Spinnaker A title for Misfit.
Congratulations to Misfit and all who sail in her.
From the time that man first fashioned craft to ply the deep waters, hardy folk have braved the dangers of the sea for sustenance – risking the roiling waves for the bounty the oceans provide.
Others have taken to the sea for exploration and conquest, striking out for unknown shores to discover new lands and plant their flags upon them.
Others go down to the sea in ships for sport, to test themselves against the fickle and ferocious elements of wind and water, to ride the exhilarating edge of speed and danger in a fast boat, sails full of howling wind, the taut rigging straining, cracking on, bow waves drenching the gunnels as they race through the swell.
Master Eric and his father Joe the Ancient Mariner in Santa Barbara Harbor.
The men of Misfit number themselves among the latter category of sailors. And that is why Captain George Moll, Master Eric Schlageter and a crew of six intrepid adventurers gathered on the dock at the harbor in Santa Barbara, California on the morning of Saturday, May 14, 2011: to take part in The 31st Annual Hardway Race, sponsored by the Pierpont Bay Yacht Club.
The Hardway Race is the first installment of the 12th annual Island Series, a set of three races that feature voyages to the nearby Channel Islands.
To go “The Hardway” means to race from Santa Barbara to Ventura Harbor by going around Santa Cruz Island – a journey of 67 nautical miles.
Master foc'sl'man Claude enjoys a celebratory cigar before we shove off.
I’ve been living in the Los Angeles area for two decades, and I’ve raced with Captain George in the Santa Barbara Channel for several years now – but I’d never sailed around the backside of Santa Cruz – so I was excited to be in this race. It’s wonderful to be able to explore exotic, unseen lands so close to home. I’ve sailed around Santa Cruz’s nearest island neighbor, Anacapa, many times. Anacapa is always a stunning sensory treat with its jagged shoreline, steep, rugged cliffs and zillions of seabirds. But going around Santa Cruz was going to be something special. Somewhere I’d never been before.
We motored toward the starting line, where the other boats in our class were jockeying for position prior to our 11:00 am start time. At 35-feet long, Misfit was among the smallest of the boats contending in the spinnaker class that had chosen to go “The Hardway” around Santa Cruz. Indications were that the wind would be up, so the Captain ordered us into our foul weather gear from the jump. When you see Eric’s dad, Joe the Ancient Mariner, donning his foulies, you’d best follow his veteran example. If Joe thinks we’re gonna get wet – we’re in for soaking.
Master Eric steered us to a great start and we got off the line, neck and neck with “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger’s magnificent racing vessel, Katana. With her much longer waterline, Katana soon began to pull ahead, as did another larger racing yacht, Prevail. But we could tell by the pace we kept with those longer boats that we had a chance to win this race if the wind – and our luck – held. (Wind and luck being the two biggest critical variables in sailboat racing.)
Within two hours sailing, we neared the western point of Santa Cruz Island at a speed of 8-10 knots. Luckily, a huge container ship crossed our bow about a half-mile ahead of us. At least one of the leading boats was not as lucky — and had to diminish speed to steer around the container ship.
We had a similar experience with an oceangoing barge approaching Anacapa on my first Hardway Race two years ago, so I was glad to see that container ship pass safely in the distance.
As we made the Santa Cruz headland, I was greeted with a sight I had not expected: there were two more islands in the distance beyond Santa Cruz: Santa Rose and San Miguel. I’d never seen either of these westernmost Channel Islands before, and it was a thrilling discovery.
I had not realized that the western end of Santa Cruz’s backside was actually a channel between two islands, and the choppy and confused currents that bounced and swelled between the two islands is known to local sailors and fishermen as “The Potato Patch.”
Once out of The Potato Patch, the northerly winds died a little as we passed under the lee of the imposing cliffs and mountains of Santa Cruz.
Between jibes, as we sought the shifting winds, I got a good look at the magnificence of Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz was once the largest privately owned island in the nation, but now its jointly owned by the National Park service (which owns 24%) and the Nature Conservancy (which owns 76%). 22 miles long and from 2 to 6 miles wide, it’s the largest of the eight islands in the Channel Islands chain.
Steep, sea-battered cliffs, surf-filled caves, and a few sandy beaches make the coastline of Santa Cruz well worth the voyage.
Rising above it all is the high ground known as Devils Peak, the highest prominence on the island at 2,450 feet.
Geno in the cockpit with the sea cliffs of Santa Cruz rising behind him.
Archaeologists tells us that humans have been visiting (and living on) Santa Cruz Island for at least 9,000 years – most notably the ChumashIndian tribe, who lived on the island and traded with the mainland Chumash population.
The Chumash had it to themselves until Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo showed up in the Channel Islands in 1542, planted the Spanish flag, lost his leg, and died. Cabrillo and his crew did not come ashore on Santa Cruz, though he named the island San Lucas.
Sebastián Vizcaíno led the last Spanish expedition to check out the Channel Islands in 1602. Vizcaino’s map named Santa Cruz the Isla de Gente Barbuda (“island of the bearded people”), and in 1822, the last of those “bearded people”, the Chumash, left Santa Cruz Island for the Catholic missions on the mainland.
We were just about to leave the vicinity of Santa Cruz ourselves at about 4:00 pm, flying a spinnaker and ripping along at 12 knots with the Eastern headland of Santa Cruz in sight – when nautical hubris got the best of us, and we were overpowered, rounded up – and knocked down!
For those who are not salty enough to appreciate what it means to be “knocked down” — here’s a simple illustration.
This is the normal profile of a sailboat, heeled over in the wind, at a slight tilt relative to the waterline. This is what you want to achieve when you’re racing a sailboat.
This is the profile of a sailboat that has been “knocked down”. If it gets any worse than this, the keel will come out of the water and the boat will capsize.
Here’s approximately where we were on the backside of Santa Cruz when we were knocked down.
What was I doing in the moments before we got knocked down? I was trying my best to capture the thrills and glory of our 12-knot surge through the swells with my iPhone. Here’s the footage I took in the moments before the knockdown.
Seconds after I stopped filming, we were overpowered and knocked down. The dramatic moment was captured on Captain George’s GoPro camera affixed to the end of the starboard stern rail. (You’ll note The Matey in the foreground – at the stern of Misfit – filming with my iPhone just before the critical moment. You can also see that, despite the calamity unfolding around me, I take great care to get that iPhone back in the pocket of my foulies.) The craziest thing was that when the starboard rail first disappeared into the sea, and the bottom of the boat suddenly became a wall rising on my left, as I clung to the stern lifelines, I was still trying to get a good shot of the ultimate dramatic moment. Damn my clumsy hands and the iPhone’s tiny controls…
Moments later, at Tom’s authoritative urging, I tucked away my iPhone and clambered over him to get hold of a portside stanchion. The fact that I was lying on top of Tom for a period of time before Misfit was righted led to the sort of off-color jokes that one comes to expect in the company of sailormen. I’ll say no more.
Here’s what Captain George’s GoPro saw…
Once the boat was righted – and kudos to Eric, Geno and Reed for their seamanlike reflexes in a crisis – we made for Ventura Harbor on the last leg of the race. As dangerous as the knockdown was, it was also an undeniable thrill. An adrenaline junkie’s fix, for sure. Our spirits were aroused and our senses engaged, as we sank Santa Cruz behind us and raced the setting sun into Ventura Harbor.
Hours before we rounded the Eastern end of Santa Cruz, our master of the fordeck, Claude, had expertly gauged the wind and waves and predicted that we’d finish just as the sun set at 7:45 pm. As we splashed our way toward Ventura, Claude’s assessment would prove to be dead on.
His assessment of the cetaceans that cavorted in our path along the way was not as correct. Seeing a pod of dorsal fin-less dolphins frolicking alongside our boat, Claude declared them to be porpoises. Just hours after the race, ever the conscientious oceanic naturalist, Claude would correctly identify them as northern rightwhale dolphins.
Despite the screaming winds, Captain George and Master Eric desired more boat speed as we flew toward Ventura, and they called for us to fly the larger Code Zero headsail. But while Claude and Geno and I did our best to fly the Code Zero, conditions got the better of us, and precious time was lost. Still, we hurtled through the channel, pointed toward the red whistle buoy that marks the entrance to Ventura Harbor.
The last hour of the race saw a constant drenching of the rail meat, as the geometry of boat speed and the direction of the swells added up to lots and lots of salt spray showering the benumbed human ballast — as Misfit tore through the waves like a trail horse smelling the feed bag.
We crossed the line moments after 8:00 pm, completing our voyage from Santa Barbara to Ventura by way of the backside of Santa Cruz in a little more than nine hours. The sun was down as we eased into an open slip, tied off at the dock, and got our nautical thoroughbred Misfit squared away for the night.
Finally, Captain George and his crew gathered at the PBYC clubhouse for a beverage and the last of the lasagna.
There we learned that Misfit had finished a mere 4 minutes out of first place — and just 20 seconds out of second place. Clearly, the knockdown off Santa Cruz and our struggle with the Code Zero on the homeward-bound leg may have cost us the race.
But, all in all, it felt like victory.
The boat performed gloriously. The Misfit crew did, too.
The Island Series is within our grasp.
Next up: The Milt Ingram Trophy Race, July 16, 2011.
Get your foulies on, mates — and unfurl as much canvass as we can!
I spent my birthday this year sailing southward along the Pacific coastline to Mexico in the annual Newport to Ensenada Race. It was the third time I’d been honored to be a part of this grand 125-mile overnight adventure – and what follows is a photo essay of the experience. The photos were taken by my good friend and fellow crewman, Brad Hall. Somehow, Brad managed to snap great shots at all angles and stay on board the boat.
Brad and I drove down to Newport on Thursday, April 14, to meet the rest of the crew and get another good look at our boat, Misfit – a sleek 1D35 Racing Sailboat. Brad and I had yet to sail aboard Misfit, which had only recently been acquired and modified by our Captain George Moll and the ship’s Master, Eric Schlageter. I’m no shipwright (I’m barely a sailorman) and I cannot describe everything that George and Eric did to re-build and re-design Misft (which is all really cool if you understand these things)– but you can find out by clicking here.
Misfit under construction. It was like the Manhattan Project, only more expensive.
By 4:00 pm, the Misfits (as we would be known in Royal Navy parlance) had gathered at Newport’s Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club for the “Send-Off Fiesta” – a bayside Bacchanal at which…
Then again, you had to be there.
Next morning, we were all at the dock to prepare Misfit for the race to Mexico. Off the back rail, we flew “The Jolly Claude” flag in tribute to our mighty master of the foc’s’le, Claude Dubreuil, who could not voyage with us that weekend. With Claude in our hearts though not on deck, our sturdy crew of eight was a foursome of matched pairs. (It was easier for me to group us this way while counting heads over the next 24 hours: kind of an unofficial buddy system. You don’t want to find out too late that someone went overboard. Especially at night.)
Captain George Moll and Tom Webber. Misfit is George’s boat, but I’m used to George and Tom being co-Captains. These guys are a classic odd couple. From the moment we hit the water, George is giving Tom grief and Tom is looking for a sandwich. But don’t let their Laurel & Hardy act fool you. These guys are real sailormen.
Joe and Eric Schlageter. Joe is Eric’s dad. They are two of the saltiest guys you’ll ever meet. I’d sailed with Eric many times, but I’d never met Joe until this race. Eric has forgotten more about sailing than I’ll ever know – and Joe knows even more. This is why I love sailing: the opportunity to get to know great characters like Joe and Eric.
Shaun Plomteaux and Geno Beville. The youngsters. The hotshots. They were born in water, of course, but appear to have slid right out of their mothers’ wombs into the Pacific Ocean. Watching them on this race would be a revelation. As hard as they worked, I think Captain George should move them up from midshipmen. Provided their sextant readings were correct.
Brad and Paul. A surfing Santa Barbara boy, Brad’s at home on the ocean, and has been sailing since his youth. As for me, I was born on the west side of Cleveland, and as a kid I built some model boats. We’ve shared many adventures together – and this would be another great one.
As Misfit pulls out of its berth at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club and sails out of Newport Harbor, Eric checks in with the race committee boat. “Sail number 35010 checking in!”
As we motored past the harbor breakwater, we caught our first sighting of that wacky photographer in his crazy taxi boat — the most unseaworthy-looking craft I’ve ever seen on the water.
Eric at the tiller negotiates our course at the start of the race. We got off to a very good start. Only one boat in our class got off to a better start. But there was a long race ahead.
The boys and me are on the rail early in the race. A sailboat like Misfit needs a lot of human ballast to keep her balanced as she slices through the water. I, for one, am especially suited to the “rail meat” role.
Shaun, Geno and Eric are in control in the cockpit early in race. Eric is steering with the tiller. At this point, you can clearly see that most of our competition is behind us.
Captain George relaxes against the lifelines as the sun starts to set. We were making a steady 6-8 knots in light wind – and our hearts were full of hope. Misfit was proving to be very nimble boat.
As the sun continues to drop down toward the horizon, the Matey shows off his brand new Newport to Ensenada hat. We’ve been sailing for about 7 hours, and we’re less than a third of the way to our destination.
Young Geno takes a turn at the tiller, steering the boat while sipping a Bloody Mary in an improvised cup. Oh yeah, the cups. Tom forgot the cups. Actually, I was one of the guys who made the run for sandwiches, vodka and Bloody Mary mix before the race. But nobody told me about cups. (George insisted that he reminded Tom about the cups.) Finally, someone got the idea to make cups out of empty water bottles. It would not be the last instance of MacGyver-like ingenuity on this voyage.
Several Bloody Marys later, Geno is still at the tiller as sun has just about set.
In the waning moments of sunlight, Shaun trims the headsail. At this point we were flying a spinnaker, still averaging 6 knots in light winds. As far as we knew, we were among the leaders.
Gorgeous colors paint the water as the sun starts to dip below the horizon. This is the kind of scene that makes sailing so addictive. The beauty and the constantly changing color and character of the water are indescribable.
As the sun comes up next morning, it’s clear what gets some sailors through the night: Red Bull and energy drinks.
Joe, “The Ancient Mariner”, greets the morning light, still snug in his foul weather gear. It was a cold, damp night – and once you get cold, you’ll never warm up again. So, foul weather gear at night is a must. You don’t take your “foulies” off until the sun comes up — and you start to sweat.
It’s clear that Tom got some sleep during the night, since he looks about as good as Tom can look.
Taking a nap on the deck, it’s clear that Captain George didn’t get much sleep during the night. But George’s nap posture is nowhere near as uncomfortable-looking as Geno’s was at one point during the night when he was out cold, face down, lying in front of the companiomway. (Red Bull can only get you so far.)
The Matey celebrates the morning of his birthday, April 16th, dressed in his groovy hippy hoodie. The hoodie went on sometime during the night as another layer under my foul weather gear, At that point, I was wearing two t-shirts, the hoodie, and my foulies. I was still a bit cold.
The Matey scans the Mexican shoreline as Misfit sails toward the finish line, coming into Ensenada.
Eric is at the helm as we approach the finish line. At this point, it was hard to tell how we’d finished. There weren’t many boats ahead of us – and a half-dozen could be seen behind us. Hope springs eternal.
Brad and Tom celebrate surviving the long, cold night and arriving at the finish line in fine, seamanlike style. A hot shower was now just an hour or so away!
At this point, a marlinspike was all that held the boom vang to the boom. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, as the winds died and our boat speed slowed to 2 knots and less, the fluttering of the mainsail caused the boom to bang back and forth – and the bolt that held the boom vang in place was lost. This was the second MacGyver-like bit of ingenuity. (Claude would have been proud.)
On the Sunday return trip, as we motored north to San Diego, Shaun was all about tending to the cordage. It was like something out of a Patrick O’Brian seafaring novel to see Shaun fixing, splicing and braiding the frayed ends of every bit of rope on board.
Eric caught the cordage bug from Shaun and started splicing and sewing, too. I was too busy enjoying the ride to San Diego. Besides, as rail meat, such refined maritime skills are way above my pay grade.
Shaun’s handiwork. I didn’t think anybody did this kind of work since the days of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic wars. Someone should introduce Shaun to scrimshaw. Then again, better to save the whales.
Captain George relaxes as we arrive in U.S. waters. Misfit can motor at between 6-7 knots – and we were lucky enough to have a “following sea” the whole way. (That means we were moving in the direction of the swell.) If we’d been motoring into the waves, it would have been a very wet and bumpy ride.
Joe also relaxes, enjoying our smooth ride home. Note Joe’s bare feet. He and Tom rarely wear shoes on board. I find that amazing. These guys are really salty.
Since U.S. Customs won’t allow us to bring fruit back into the country from Mexico, George helps out by eating his share of the contraband apples.
The Matey looks a bit weathered and grizzled as Misfit makes her way into San Diego Harbor. It’s been a wonderful weekend of adventure: my first birthday on the Pacific Ocean.
Eric deals with the Customs agents at the U.S. Customs dock. I guess everything was okay because they let us all go. Luckily, the drug-sniffing dog didn’t give a damn about Red Bull.
The Misfits pose before a celebratory meal at the Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego. (My wife Victoria snapped this photo.) We look none the worse for the wear. Next year, we want to see our shipmate Claude in this photo with us!
And now, here’s a little film that Brad edited from footage he shot during the race – with the same camera he used to shoot those photos! It’ll give you a better idea of what it’s like to be on the water aboard Misfit. Ahoy!
BTW — We didn’t win the race. But I doubt anybody had more fun — or more laughs.