Sailing Adventures – The Return Trip

After every adventure, whether short or long in time or distance, there’s a coming home. There’s a returning to a place, or a feeling of normalcy or of rest, that gives us a chance to contemplate our adventures and re-calibrate our perspectives of the world.

While I returned to the East Coast for two and a half weeks, my dad toiled in the boatyard. The mast got removed to re-run wiring and get painted, the bottom was sanded and also painted, and a variety of other little projects were also completed. So while I breathed a bit of that coming home feeling on my side of the country, I knew the adventure wasn’t quite over.

So I flew out once more to the West Coast to help out, but this time for the explicit purpose of bringing the boat back home, to complete the journey. The trip northward along the coast of California is a much different beast than the trip southward. Northward is against the prevailing winds and swells and currents, and includes a rounding of Point Conception where the coastline turns from an east-west direction to a more north-south direction. This is the natural division between southern California and central California, and the winds here can get fearsome as they wrap around the land. Many a sailor have waited out the winds at anchor in Cojo before attempting the trip.

The run can take anywhere between 24 and 36 hours depending on the wind speed and direction. I use the word “run” purposefully because it’s not just a trip. There’s a sense of urgency to it to go quickly before the weather changes or something happens. Luckily we had a good weather window and managed the trip in just over 23 hours. My dad said it’s the easiest trip he’s ever had around Point Conception.

This trip brought me a big new experience that I don’t remember from childhood; sailing at night. Obviously as a child we sailed through the night, but I was never an active participant in the journey. This time I was very much an active participant. Night sailing is something that few people ever do, even regular day sailors. It’s a magical experience, so I thought I’d try to describe it a bit. The following is an entry in my journal written soon after our return.

Night fell as cars disappeared into Gaviota pass on the mainland. Night sailing is a weird mix of constant apprehension, wonder, beauty, and cold. There's always the fear that you'll run into something that didn't show up on the radar, hit a lobster pot buoy that gets caught around the prop, or have to "buckle in" with your harness when the wind picks up suddenly and you have to go forward to drop the main sail... The wonder part of the trip includes watching the lights on land, trying to guess what they belong to, telling time by the changing position of the lights... The rolling of the boat over darkened water is reminiscent of riding a smooth conveyor belt. It's an odd sensation that the water is picking you up, carrying you, and forcing you along, whereas during daylight it very much feels like the boat is charging its way through the water. At night you don't have as much control, you have to trust the ocean to carry you where you want to go... The cold is numbing, wind in your face, eyeballs as wide as possible looking for pitfalls or floating obstacles. The cold seeps in past openings at wrists and necks and waists; up past pant legs and past socks. It's a soul-crushing cold because its the cold of wind and not of temperature. You can't shore up every crack and you can't put your back to it without relinquishing that little bit of control, that chance to see something in the darkness before it becomes a problem.

Once again, I’m deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with my dad out on the water. I’m also reminded that it’s shared experiences that help build connections between people and I’m thankful to have that as well. For now, I’m headed home to contemplate my adventures and re-calibrate my perspectives of the world!

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