Monday, May 21, 2012

To Broach Your Boat in the Waves or Not To - This IS the Question!

I left the marina with strong winds coming out of the west. It didn't take too long to get out to sea where 6-10 foot waves were waiting for me. It looked like a mess out there. I had the little jib up and it sailed well over the big ten footers. Out at sea, the waves came upon you like monsters wanting to gulp you up. I had tethered myself to the lifeline and the hatches were closed. These size of waves really challenge you to be alert and careful and to make wise decisions - or else! True enough, I've been in worse. Waves that were breaking more often and that were higher and more steep. But still, these kept me on my toes! I was even able to video a little footage of the time out there. Its interesting how on video, its very hard to show how big the waves are. I believe this is because of the wave length. On video you can't see the distance between waves and thus the waves just appear to blend into the sea. Only the waves atop the bigger waves show up and these don't look too big.

While I was out there with my phone camera, I suddenly got nailed by a big breaking wave and the spray flew all over me. I quickly ducked and saved my phone. The wetness hit me in the back instead, drenching through my first layer of clothing. I remember in times past being much more intimidated by these waves and returning to the harbor after fifteen minutes or so. But I've been learning more how to deal with these waves and my fear level has decreased. So today I stayed out an hour in the craziness. It was rather fun. I did not have a lot of stress as the small jib was just the right size for the gusting wind and the boat was holding her own real well. Its when the wind starts increasing and putting too much pressure on the sails that I begin to get nervous.

I did though, have a little trouble on the way back as the boat kept wanting to head up into the strong gusting wind. The waves were now coming from behind and the wind was crossing over my beam. I realized I had not let the main sail out enough. I mean, the boat was on a beam reach already, but still the boat had almost swerved broadsides into the big waves twice. Thankfully I had been saved by the simple turn of the tiller. But if the wind comes on strong enough, the tiller is helpless to overpower the sails. That's why so much care needs to be taken to make sure the you are sailing the boat BY the sails. I've had my tiller break against a heavy wind when my sails were set wrong. So I had to let the main sheet and boom out even more (almost to a run!) so the boat wouldn't broach. One big lesson in sailing in big seas and heavy winds is to make sure the sails are helping your tiller out!

While writing this, I wanted to see what the full definition of 'broaching' was, so I looked it up. This was very interesting to me and they put it in words that are very clear and easy to understand. I really felt like I was battling all these same symptoms out at sea that they are talking about:

"A sailboat broaches when its heading suddenly changes towards the wind due to wind/sail interactions for which the rudder cannot compensate. This causes the boat to roll dangerously and if not controlled may lead to a capsize."

"Also when sailing on a dead downwind run an inexperienced or inattentive sailor can easily misjudge the real strength of the wind since the boat speed subtracts directly from the true wind speed and this makes the apparent wind less. In addition the sea conditions also falsely seem milder on this point of sail as developing white caps are shielded from view by the back of the waves and are less apparent. When changing course in a brisk wind from a run to a reach or a beat, a sailboat that seemed under control can instantly become over-canvassed and in danger of a sudden broach."
~Broach (sailing) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

True enough, sailing downwind or close to it on a broad reach, is exhilarating and very different than sailing into the 'teeth' of the wind. The wind is coming mostly from behind and you often end up 'surfing' through the waves on a fast track that appears much easier than beating into the crashing waves. But its dangers are perhaps even more real than on the other tack.

PS: I really appreciate your messages posted below! Thanks!! :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Broken Mast in Heavy Seas

I left the marina with strong winds coming out of the west. It didn't take too long to get out to sea where 6-10 foot waves were waiting for me. It looked like a mess out there - but I've been in much worse. I had the little jib up and it sailed well over the big ten footers. I had a little trouble on the way back as the boat kept wanting to head up into the strong gusting wind and I realized I had not let the mainsail out enough (I had it out on a broad reach but even that was not working!) After an hour of sailing out there in that, I came back into the breakwater and realized I had only sailed two hours! I need four hours to qualify for a day (for my captains license), so I sailed to the other end of the marina and back and STILL had an hour left. The sun had set when I got back at the entrance to the sea and I decided to head out into the waves at night for half an hour. I wasn't really afraid as I have been out in similar weather at night many times. The wind had calmed a little - perhaps from twenty knots to ten - and was right on the edge but not bad enough to warrant a sail change. I had raised the genoa again - just 20 mins earlier and was confident my shrouds were strong (as I check them often) and that the big jib could handle the load. However, because I had been out an hour in the waves, I should have paid some attention to the spreaders. In hindsight, I now have a suspicion that the
port spreader cross tree was slipping a little with all the tossing about that day. For no sooner had I got an eighth of a mile out and suddenly with a gunshot like crack, the mast was suddenly swept away right off the deck!
One moment the mast was on and the next it was gone. One of my worst nightmares - being caught in big seas and losing my mast - had come true. Thankfully the seas weren't twenty feet and breaking! Anyway, now the mast lay on the water with all sails. The motion of the boat slowed down instantly and now I was just floating around without any ability to steer the boat. By slowing down almost to a standstill, this made the boat ride the waves almost like you can imagine a rubber ducky would. But in losing speed, the rudder would not work. I knew I needed to get a sea anchor going so I could keep the boat heading up into the waves. So I opened the hatch to go check what I could do. I was half terrified of even opening my cabin to look, as opening the hatches made me vulnerable to taking on water if a big wave hit me broadsides. But I had to try! So after stepping into the cabin and looking around, I couldn't see anything that would work and realized I was just going to have to live with the craziness. So giving up on that idea, I decided to do the next most important thing which was to call in an S.O.S to the Harbor Patrol. While waiting for them to come, I then pulled on the rigging - trying to pull the mast out of the water. However, pulling on the shrouds was like wishing to make my hands blead, so I decided to try and pull on the softer rope halyards instead. That seemed to work and I soon had the top of the mast out of the water and winched in to the cleat. But it was SO heavy! I could barely do that. At that point, I remember seeing the Harbor Patrol boat coming out of the breakwater. Suddenly in the dark, I saw a big ten foot wave coming. The boat began to ride up its big front and as it came to the top, the wave jolted the boat - hitting it and pushing it forward with all of its might. A surge of fear welled up inside of me. I didn't like the boat so out of control. Nevertheless, this must have happened three times before the Harbor Patrol arrived. Thankfully this was the worst of it. When the patrol came - you can imagine how happy I was! Soon the rescue men had heaved over the waves a line. Catching it for dear life, I then attached it to the bow and we were off - dragging the twenty five foot mast behind me with the sails still in the water. As I was towed along, I was able to get the other half of the broken mast out of the ocean and attach it to the side of the bow. But getting the whole mast up and onto the deck was more than I could do or figure out at that time. However, it was at this time that it suddenly dawned on me that I could have attached my 100 foot rope to my big bucket and that this would have made a sufficient sea anchor! And afterwards (while going to sleep that night in the safety of my slip), it also dawned on me that if I had attached a strong rope to where the spreaders connect to the mast, I may have been able to pull the broken mast up and over the stern rail. Oh well. Something learned for another time! But more importantly, I hope I will have learned enough to keep me out of this kind of trouble - ever again! But knowing me, only time will tell."

PS: If you read this article, I really appreciate your comments below. Thanks!! :-)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sailing in a Furious Rain Storm!

“What are you doing going out in this? I’m freezing!” A man cried out to me from a racing sailboat passing by. I just smiled and waved back. I wanted to say how warm I was with three jackets on, two hats and a scarf and gloves. But I didn’t. Still the rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was out with a vengeance. The boat was heeled over a great deal as the boat sped on through the pelting rain. I could hardly see with all the rain and cold wind in my face. The hatches were all firmly closed and Buttercup (my cute golden Labrador) was snuggled up all warm on the v-birth. 'All nice and warm in the midst of the storm. Wow, must be nice!' I thought. I'm not sure If I was jealous or just happy for her. I was still enjoying the fight. As for me, I instead decided to finally brave the elements head on and go out to the bow and take the sail down. Climbing up out of the protection of the cockpit and onto the cabin top, the full fury now hit me. Rain everywhere, and the wind gusting so hard you could hear it go by. Every second counted. If I didn't get done and out of there soon I would be completely drenched. So quickly I put up the smaller jib and could feel the lessening of pressure on the boat almost immediately.

In a while I came to the breakwater. There I suddenly noticed the stream that flowed from the land was aggressively flowing in the face of the waves - those coming in from the sea. It was actually causing a cross sea as the apposing waves hit each other. I thought nothing of it as I headed out until it dawned on me that the current from the river was coming in VERY strong and was about to push me onto the rocks. If I didn't do something smart immediately, I would only have a few more minutes before the unevitable! With all my effort I headed the boat directly against the flow and on a close reach I was able to gain ground against the deluge of water, leaves and branches. I'm so glad I knew little tricks of using the wind to my advantage. If I hadn't had the experience, it would have been lights out for my boat!

Finally getting out to sea, I found the wind had decreased a notch and had to go back out to the bow and put up the bigger genoa sail. 'Not again!' I thought. But the wind was playing with me, for after having just got the sail up and the wind started increasing once more! Looking over the starboard side of the boat, I could see the northern mountains with dark storm clouds and mist hovering there. I realized then how the Low of the storm was now in the east as the counter clockwise winds were now gusting from the north. I have to say that sailing into its teeth with the rain coming down again was very exciting! But soon I couldn’t even face the cold wind any more. I hid from it behind the cabin hatches and from behind a waterproof blanket. My gloves were now soaking with wetness and two of the three jackets I had on were soggy. So I changed out of these, put on new gloves and then poured some hot water from the thermos into a packet of hot chocolate that was now in my cup. Man alive I felt better after drinking that! The warm clothes and gloves made me come back to life too.

About a mile and half from shore, I tacked back and forth and eventually made it to the northern entrance of Marina Del Rey. As I came back in the harbor from out at sea, the storm was beginning to break up and the setting sun was even starting to show through the clouds. The sight was surreal and breathtaking! I took some pictures of it as fast as I could so that the drizzling rain that still was coming down would not ruin my camera phone. Soon it was dark and of all things I noticed my battery had a bad connection and the navigation lights weren’t coming on! I looked over the port side and then noticed a big party boat coming my way! Wow, what timing. I began to lose my nerve a little but then took a big breath and got out my emergency lantern. Lighting it with a match it then came on with a warm glow. I was then able to fiddle with the battery connectors and get the lights working again. Now they could see me and I was able to make it out of the way of the boat! Shortly afterwards my boat slid back into my slip on a fast beam reach. I was happy to get the sails down and go in the cabin and get warm again. Buttercup was happy to see me too! ~Albie

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Scare Your Socks off! Sailing in Storms, Sailing Without an Engine, Sailing at Night I

One Saturday afternoon after a nice sailing trip, a friend said to me, "What can be so exciting to write about on your sailing blog?"

Ok, that's a fair question! I mean, its definitely not Cape Horn with 40 knot winds almost every day and thirty foot waves - right! To the ordinary sailor in Southern California, we get good weather most of the year and if your like most, you plan your weekend to go sailing in the afternoon when the wind is usually fresh and there's plenty of light. And that's usually fun! But due to some unusual circumstances and some really bad luck, I found the key to high adventure - right out of my harbor! So this evening, as the sun was going down over the water and the wind was pushing my sails firmly to port, I recognized what those things were and thought you might enjoy knowing what they were - even if you wouldn't want to copy them!

So these are the very distinct keys to high adventure in your own local waters:

1) First, if your looking to increase your odds at finding adventure, sail at least once a week at night. A night sail will increase your odds for adventure at least ten percent. I mean, here's a good example. Tonight I did not really have any weather problems, the wind was steady and the waves were normal. As I was sailing back towards the harbor from out at sea, suddenly I was frightened out of my mind by what sounded like a lady crying out in pain or my dog being run over by the boat! It honestly sounded a little different than a human voice but nonetheless freaked me out! Thankfully it was neither as I was alone and my dog was safe and happily sleeping in the V-birth. But here's the question. What WAS it? All I can guess was that I must have scared a sea gull or a seal. I'm also pretty sure there was no one swimming there too! They would have been sure to of seen my navigation lights or yelled out for help. Okay, so would that have happened it I hadn't gone out at night? I think not. I guess its not exactly a positive thing to happen for the seal or bird but it sure was weird! I've gone out at night for three years and never had anything like that happen. Birds and seals are usually very aware of what's happening - much more than you or I. So I'm still honestly unsure of what it was. But it was a tiny adventure non the less. And this brings me to my second insight.

2) Second, do NOT use your engine for any reason except for emergencies. This alone will take ten years off your life! But after you get good at it, watch out because it gets exciting and it has its benefits. For one you are forced to become a much better sailor.

3) Third, sail each and every week in whatever weather may come your way; ie...calms, storms and what may. After a year of this, you will have some hair raising stories! Just be really careful, as you will no doubt have some adventures you may not want.

Okay, now that we're clear on the basics, let me give some instructions before you go for it. When sailing at night, always make sure you have navigation lights and a couple flashlights handy, an extra lantern and a fog horn. After escaping being run down by big party boats many times, I'm glad to tell you one of these will help save your life! One night I put out my lantern, flashed my lights, turned the boat so my navigation lights were obvious and the party boat still didn't see me! So I finally blew the fog horn a couple times and that worked! Thank you God!

Now if the fog horn did not work I could have gone on my VHS radio and hailed the boat on channel 16 and then used my oars to seriously get out of there! I know, yes you would have put on your engine by that time. But you would have never learned that rowing a twenty foot boat and larger is actually possible and will get you somewhere if you're persistent. Really when you think about it, I would never had that problem if I was using my engine in the first place and wasn't sailing at night. Its true that a temporary calm put my sails out of action and slowed me down to almost a standstill. So you say, how fun is that? What can be learned by such foolishness? Well, I'll tell you. One of the first things I learned after losing my engine, was that the wind becomes fickle after sunset. It sometimes takes half an hour to an hour for it to come back - but it usually does. After this, you have a couple hours before the GREAT CALM happens. So this means that if your not using your engine - make sure you get back before then! Now how did I learn this lesson? By sitting patiently for endless hours without wind is how! So you must be thinking, 'isn't it just better to learn from your mistakes? Now that I know this, I can still use my engine - right? Well, not if you want to learn how to sail in very light winds and how to save your life if your engine DOES ever happen to fail. I'll tell you, one year on a nice evening, the wind started kicking in and gusting and I did what every normal sailor does and took down my sails after getting safely into the harbor. My engine then proceeded to die and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. So what to do now with the wind gusting twenty knots down the channel and with the inevitable just waiting to happen! I needed to figure something out fast! Well I tried raising my sails, but I couldn't get into the wind like I wanted and with the gusting winds, the mainsail just got stuck. So did the jib. You'll be happy to know that even with the mainsail three quarters up and the jib only up partially, I was able to crawl away from hitting the docked boats and get back to my slip. But it was scary and REALLY stressful! Now from plenty of practice, I know how to sail into my slip even in a storm and using an engine is just one more plus.
One more thing about night sailing: Know the 'Red Right Returning rule and your buoy and harbor entrance lights. I'd say its pretty important to know coastal navigation too. But for sure its MANDATORY to go out with someone who knows what they're doing first, as its really easy to get lost at sea at night and not know where the harbor is. And sailing in fog is a whole different monster.

Now about going out in storms, my first advice after having been in several of them is to carry storm sails. A storm jib is a good beginning. Second, have safety harnesses available to clip into when it gets rough. Attach a safety line from the bow to the stern in which to clip the harness onto. Third have a good boat with a good keel. Have safety lines running around it from bow to stern and learn all you can about heavy weather sailing from books and video's before you do. My final suggestion is to go one step at a time and if you get scared - really scared, turn back. Of course it's good advice to have someone go with you who knows what they're doing - but good luck finding them!

Now if you're seriously reading this and are going to do what I said, than you are definitely crazy! I only do it because I love sailing at night, I lost my engine in a big storm and I want to be ready and know what to do when the worst happens. If this article really challenges you to try these things please realize that you are at your own risk and that it can be dangerous. Just read some of my stories - you will see! To tell the truth, I learned all I have (which is not much compared to some) by lots of mistakes. IT'S THE MISTAKES THAT TEACH YOU BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE! Hopefully you will go slow, do your homework and ask advice (please, please email me too) and don't make the real costly mistakes!

So these are the three ingredients to making yourself a real adventuresome soup. If sailing in storms and without an engine are too much, try just sailing at night! There's nothing like it! The sea is so dark and mysterious - that alone will scare your socks off the first few times! I remember having this fearful feeling that after having just gone a little too far out to sea, and the boat would just sink. The keel would find a way to come off or something bad would happen! Exactly my point. When you come back and all is well, you'll thank me for a real level one adventure!

Fear of the Storm I

There would be no mistaking those huge monster waves!' I said looking out to sea. Dark silhouettes would form along the horizon confirming the wave height. I wasn't seeing any. The darkness of night didn't help either and made it difficult to make certain. I remember a night like this about a year ago. Coming out of the breakwater, I looked along the edge of the sea and saw these massive forms of water suddenly break out of the dark horizon. Those were the big cresting waves crashing forward with white water as they moved speedily ahead. But I wasn't seeing that tonight. I also looked for white caps too but there was none. The wind wasn't blowing hard enough yet. The weather report had said the wave height was five to seven feet tonigh! And the wind report had been for at least 20 - 30 MPH winds and gusts. Could I be so deceived? Surely I wasn't wrong. So I steered my Columbia 22 cautiously out into the waves. A couple minutes out. Not getting that 'big wave' sensation. But there was something. What was it? I looked up at the next wave coming my way. It was deceptively bigger than it looked! 'Must be five or six feet!' I thought. There also was a significant valley below the wave too, which confirmed my suspicions. The wave wasn't breaking and the intervals between it was long - which took the fury out of it. Still it was definitely bigger than the average and I would need to keep my eye on these.

I tacked the boat to the northwest on a close reach and suddenly I caught a lot of speed. 'This is amazing!' I thought watching how the boat tore through the wave, cutting white water as it went. And yet because of the waves size, it almost seem to squirm up to the top! A very strange feeling! The sailboat must not have had as much wind at the bottom of the trough but as it made its way up, it was hit full on by the increasing wind. Then it would suddenly lean heavy into it giving it this 'squirming' like feeling. It was fun! I crawled out over the deck and knelt at the bow watching the boat approach each new wave. Yes, the swells were definitely bigger than they at first appeared. Suddenly the boat began to heel heavily and I held on tight to the safety rope so I wouldn't fall off into the sea! 'Man alive, we were going fast!' The wind was gaining power before my eyes. 'I better get back to the cockpit.' I thought. 'If anything goes wrong...'
Quickly I exited the safety rope and held on to the bottom of the boom as I jumped down into the cockpit. Taking the tiller in my hand, I turned the yacht downwind a bit and steered it from going so fast. It sure wasn't a storm yet but the sailing was incredible!

I tacked into the headwinds, going out to sea in a northwest direction. The ocean was very dark and foreboding. I had seen it this way many times before and calmed my spirit with the assurance of experience. Nevertheless, its important to remember that just when you think you can handle the sea, the sea can turn it up to the next level on you. This thought always keeps me humble. The wind would just have to increase to 20 MPH and the game rules would change. Right now it must be blowing 8 - 10 - so not so bad. I had my small storm sail all set up and ready to hoist in case things changed too. As it was, my little jib was up right now - but things would have to get a lot worse before I raised the storm sail. Nevertheless, it was true. I was flying along this fast with my small jib. It was after 9pm too. 'Hmmm. Warning signal.' Usually the wind calms at this time - but the wind was just getting stronger. I got a ways out to sea and was greatly enjoying the ride. But I wasn't going to be foolish tonight and either wait for the storm to really hit or for the winds to die. So I tacked back. On this reach, I was close hauled heading directly for the red beacon signal, with the big waves thrusting the sailboat forward with every interval. Nothing seemed to be boring tonight. It just kept getting better and better. I had to keep a watchful eye out because at anytime it could cross the line from 'better' to crazy. Ok, at least I was ready.
And within half an hour the 'crazy' began. Out of control gusts and this 'howling' noise in my ears. Thankfully I was nearing my slip by this time. 'What's concerning me is the angle of the wind! It's coming out of the north east and very hard. Because I don't have an engine, I use the sails all the way into my dock. And I usually ease out my sail as I come in to slow the boat down. But that's not going to work tonight! What to do? I'll have to take the main sail down just before I turn the corner to the dock!' I said trying to figure out how to take it down that fast and safely so I wouldn't crash into the half million dollar boats that would be nearby.
Ten minutes later when the time came to really take the main sail down, I knew I would literally only have 20 seconds to make this work. So I headed upwind into the gusting wind, jumped up on deck and tried to drop the wildly beating sail. I pulled down on it with all my might - just hoping against hope it wouldn't get snagged! It didn't. The wind was now pushing the boat fast sideways and in less than a minute would have me bumping into a docked sailboat. So I turned the boat 180 degrees and entered the last small 'finger channel' where my dock was. I came in to the slip - going super fast as if demons were on my heals! Unclipping the lifelines, I jumped out onto the wooden platform and ran with all my speed to the end so I could slow the bow of the boat down. As it approached the wooden dock, I was just able to stop it from hitting! Imagine how fast I would have come in if I hadn't taken my main sail down? With my main sail up and the wind pushing directly behind, it wouldn't have been pretty!


Fog of Death I

"How was it out there?" I yelled as I was leaving.

"Nothing but fog! I hope you have some extra batteries for your GPS!" Maury shouted back.

I wasn't concerned. My cell phone had a GPS and it was charged. And anyway who needs a GPS when you have a map and a compass? I thought. So I waved goodbye and pressed on. Leaving my slip behind, I glided out into fair winds down the channel. It was a pretty foggy day but that didn't bother me as I had sailed in fog before. Out in the main channel I could see how much visibility there was. Not much. About an eighth of a mile. Tacking again on the north side, I could see one speed buoy behind me, one buoy next to me and one in front of me - that was it. After that it was pure white mist. Leaving the breakwater behind me I headed out to sea. Here the fog created its own weird sensation. It didn't even seem like you could see an eight of a mile because there really is nothing to see out there. Soon the fishing boat and the breakwater were completely gone from sight and yet they were not that far away. All I could see now was a little circle of ocean. This was my whole world. I had still my inner sense where the breakwater had been but that was it. Now the only way I knew where I was, was by looking at my compass.

"I had better keep really good records of where I am and get out my map and navigation things." I thought. So I laid them out before me on my seat in the cockpit - instead of in the cabin as I usually did. 'I would need them constantly today. My heading is 180 South.' Yet the boat was determined to head 150 instead. I brought her up into the wind as much as I could and found if I stayed constant on the tiller I could maintain 180. Looking at the map and compass rose, I could see that 150 SE, would end me up on the beach eventually. Taking down the time, 5:40 pm, I then saw something red out in the water. At first thinking it was a life jacket, I aimed the boat at it. 'I could always use another life jacket, an by the looks of it, it appears new!' I then blew my foghorn like I was supposed to every minute or so and headed up towards it. Suddenly another boat came down out of the mist heading my way. But he was not on a crash course as he must have heard my horn and saw me as he went by. The lifejacket floating on the water turned out to be just a real shiny red balloon! So I left it. After sailing for 45 minutes, the winds strength seemed to ease a little. I was not completely sure of this as the sails still remained full, and the feeling of the wind was the same on my face. It was just one of those gut feelings you get. So I tacked the boat around on a reciprocal route back. All seemed fine. On the map the opposite route to 180 was 0 degrees and I knew that sea drift and some inaccuracy would need me to steer more to 10 degrees north. So I did and gave myself a test to see if I could get back to the marina without using my GPS. "After all, even if I got it a little wrong I would hear the breakers on the shore and go up or down the coast to find the entrance." So I wasn't too worried.

By now it was 6:13 pm and I
knew sunset would be at 6:30 giving me just till 7:00pm to get back before total darkness. What I didn't remember was that sunset had changed since I last looked and that it was probably setting around the very time I was thinking all of this! Of course the fog made it impossible to see any sunset or give me any clues at all. So I wrote in my log all these thoughts including my estimated time of arrival to be at 7:00pm. By 6:30 I noticed I was loosing light. At this indication I realized I had better use my GPS as the possibility of losing wind after sunset was real. 'Better to use it and get home than be an idiot just to pass my own test.' I figured.

At 6:45 pm it was completely dark and the wind had definitely lightened considerably. By 7:00pm there was no wind at all and I was freaking out! Not that I was scared of being at sea in the dark. I did that weekly. But it was being out in the dark with no sight of any lights to guide you and with no wind and only a compass reading to go by. 'I must be somewhat near the breakwater.' I thought as it was close to my Time of Arrival. The waves were now very bumpy without the power of the wind in the sails to drive through them. The sails whipped back and forth from the motion - making it all very irritating! My GPS reading put me past Dockwhiler Beach but not quite at the Marina. In fact, when I looked at it carefully, my reading put me a little closer to the beach than I was wanting! All I could think of now was what if the wind died for good? I consoled myself that this rarely ever happened at this time of night. Another fear was what if this was really it and I was finally doomed to crashing my boat on the rocks? Hearing the breakers on the beach just added to my suspicions as I immediately tacked back out to sea. If I could just find the green or red harbor lights - all would be well! I kept getting this longing to just be back in my slip, safely resting. I was really tired too. All this work was really getting to me. I kept telling God to please send some wind and that I really did believe He could do it. And then it occurred to me that God had let me watch a video clip just a couple days ago about navigating through blind areas and trusting the instruments. Seriously, if it had not been for the video I had seen, I really would have thought my compass was all goofed up (as it kept telling me readings that were totally wild. It would say I was going east when I had just turned the boat north only a minute ago!) The video had said people had died because they didn't trust them. So tonight I decided to trust them - even if it made me crazy!

So after tacking back out to sea, the only wind I could get (and it was debatable whether you could really call it wind!) was on a close reach back the way I had come! Still it was better than beaching the boat on the shore. Having a thousand pound keel that went 3-4 feet under the water line, the breakers would tear my boat apart as soon as it lodged into the sand. I steered as far away from that scenario as I could.

Eventually I got a little bit further from shore but my nerves were tearing me apart. Having practically no vision (now that it was dark), feeling the constant pressure of the waves, having to look at my compass and GPS every 20 seconds and with this non stop worry in my head, I was beginning to feel really sick and agitated. I wanted to just throw up and get it over with! But I knew I had not got that sick yet. My inner self was telling me I could still beat seasickness. So I jumped down into the cabin and got myself a butterscotch candy from my supplies and sucked on that. I don't know whether it helped or not but it was going to have to! Then I just gave up momentarily with the constant compass readings. I was falling apart inside but despite that, I knew I could sit out here in the ocean a long time with no power before getting near the beach. So I looked down into the ocean and was half surprised to see little glowing sparkles of green from the bio-luminesance! Suddenly what appeared to be a glowing green streak across the water (like a torpedo) caught my eye! And then another following it! It went from the north to the south with incredible speed. I had never quite seen the trail of dolphins like this before - but there it was! Though this nagging fear of failing tonight seemed to haunt me, the beauty of the water and the dolphins woke me back up to Gods love and protection. Now with the bio-luminesance in the water, anything that touched the water sparkled. That included my oars as I began to row the boat away from land. Each time my oar hit the water, a huge ball of eerie green light would appear on the dark sea. It was as if a huge flashlight was shining up through the water or like stirring a magical brew in a cauldron! I couldn't believe it. As soon as this occurred, my lack of sight was appeased and I started to feel a little more like myself and realized I should just keep rowing. It would take time and a lot of work to just get a little further, but with virtually no wind, it was my next option. Having lost my engine in a big storm didn't give me many more options either - besides just staying out all night and waiting till the fog cleared! But that was risky too.

A good hour must have passed in which I rowed, tacked into a deceiving wind that I occasionally thought was blowing, took down the head sail, put it back up and checked my GPS and compass constantly. And then the wind finally came! It sparkled green on the sea as it stirred the bio-luminesance, giving it a magical feeling! With the fog all around and the darkness and then the sudden sparkles of green light everywhere - it really was beyond description! But I couldn't focus on it for long. There was work to do so I jumped up onto the cabin top and raised the jib sail again. I felt a stirring of joy back in my heart! Thank You God for the wind to get home! If only I could now steer clear of the rocks! There were other concerns too: anchored boats near the breakwater without anchor lights. It would be a seconds warning - if even that - if I came near one. 'Oh please, please have your lights on!' I hoped fervently as the boat took off on a gallop through the wall of darkness.

And then I saw something of a light. I was approaching it quickly. It was very blurred and I could not make out what it was. And then a very dark blurry shape appeared - beginning to look like a boat. It had no navigation lights only the one masthead light - so it must be one of the anchored boats! I steered clear. Step one had been completed. I had found the anchored boats. The harbor was near. Now to find the green and red entrance light! And then almost as the same moment I thought it - there it was, flashing brightly! At least the green one was. It appeared out of nowhere, as if it was sitting in midair without anything holding it up! But I was grateful. Now if I only could remember which side of the green to come in on. If I picked the wrong side, my chances of crashing were greater. I suddenly couldn't remember something I had known for years - even though I racked my brain. Panic does that to you. I had never seen the light alone by itself without anything else to measure it by. So I prayed and asked God to help me remember. And as I prayed, I vividly remembered seeing the red light on the shore side of the breakwater. So that meant the green was to my left. I went with it and steered down. I was going against some rational thoughts as I didn't remember the anchored boats being parallel with the harbor light. But I was determined and besides the red light was nowhere to be seen. As I steered downward of the green light, I suddenly saw the shape of rocks below the light and jumped for joy, for that was the breakwater entrance. Soon the red light appeared too - glowing eerily in the fog. And as I entered the harbor I suddenly saw ten or more streaks of green light as dolphins were all over the place! Two seals came near my boat as well, but all I could see of them was a ghostly green light moving through the water in all kinds of directions. Even little flashes of light went by as fish moved away from the boat. And then the most amazing thing happened. The dolphins must have been diving, for suddenly the circular glow around them got bigger and bigger and bigger until it was the square size of a boat. And this was happening everywhere, so the water was just lit up all over the place! What an ending to a very scary evening. My breathing finally became normal again as my heart rate went down and I took a deep breath of relief. Out at sea I was very fearful - like how I felt in a storm, and my pulse beat twice as fast. But now with the wind blowing fast against the sails and with the harbor lights on each side guiding me in, I sailed on home with excitement and happiness in my heart - very thankful to God to be back!