Trial By Sea - The Move From San Diego to Oxnard

Friday, Apr. 30 - Morning

After several delays for engine repairs and other maintenance issues, the day finally arrives - it's time to move Emerald Star from her berth in San Diego to her new home in Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard. To say I'm excited (and nervous) is an understatement. The adventure is about to begin! 

Is there any time that is more full of hope and optimism than just before the start of a new adventure?

We're about to embark on a sea trial of roughly 170 nm, to be completed over the next 40 hours. We expect to leave at 2200 hours on Friday and average 5 knots, which gives us an arrival at Catalina Island around 1400 on Saturday. The plan is to rest there a bit, maybe get off the boat to eat lunch and depart again on the tide at 2000 hours with an expected arrival in Channel Islands around 1400 on Sunday.

On board will be three souls - myself, Greg and Orion. I've met these two through a Craigslist ad after multiple schedule changes force my original crew of Kelly, Benton and Ryan to cancel their plans to join me. Greg and Orion are friends, in their late 20's. Greg is a former 'Hollywood' Marine (he played in the Marine Corps band) who owns his own 29' sailboat and hopes to do someday what I will be attempting - sailing around the world. He sees this as a chance to get some experience at being out at sea non-stop for a few days instead of just cruising for a few hours. Orion has no previous sailing experience and is mostly along for the ride. He's a good cook though, and that skill is always welcomed on a boat.

I meet them the night before we're to set sail and I'm impressed with both of them - they are both articulate, eager for new experiences and have bright, positive spirits. Our 1 hour 'getting to know you' meeting turns into 4 and in addition to securing crew for the journey, I feel like I've met some new friends.

The start of the journey seems promising. That feeling wouldn't last very long.

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Friday - Afternoon

In just a few hours, the day has gotten out of hand. We had agreed to a pickup in Oxnard at 11 am, anticipating a 3 hour drive to San Diego. 11 turns into 1. A little late, but nothing too bad. I had built in some wiggle room in the schedule - I had wanted to get to SD in late afternoon to give us time to settle on board the boat and get familiar with her, do some food shopping, take the crew out for dinner and then rest a bit before heading out on the tide at 2200. Leaving a little later eats into that time, but there is still a cushion.

And then...

Traffic. 

As a newbie to SoCal, it had completely slipped my mind that I was leaving on a Friday and traffic might be a factor. This is a big mistake on my part that throws the rest of the schedule completely out of whack.

The anticipated three hour drive turns into an EIGHT hour drive. We try various routes to skirt around traffic but it's simply unavoidable. We hit slow downs at every juncture, baking in the sun in the convertible with the top down.

Along the way, I get more bad news from my mechanic. He was finishing putting everything back together while we were in transit, and I had anticipated hopping aboard the boat, giving him my credit card and having everything ready to go. Kind of like when I pick up my car from my mechanic - I pay the bill and go on my merry way.

When it became clear that we were not going to get to the boat on time, I called him as a courtesy so he wouldn't be wasting his time waiting for us, expecting to just give him my credit card number, thank him for his work and be on our way.

It doesn't quite work that way with boats, I discover. He refuses to release the boat to me until we do a sea trial to test the engine work he's done, and he's got the keys to the boat with him.

I'm miffed, to say the least. I've never actually met this guy, but he comes to me highly recommended by the broker, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. But he doesn't work past 4 pm, and we're stuck in traffic and clearly are not going to get there in time. It's important that we cast off tonight in order to get Greg back to work on Monday.

We discuss the schedule on the phone. I admit to being angry and doing my best NOT saying what's on my mind, and I practice breathing while he tells me why he won't release the boat to me without a sea trial.

I fight my instincts, my eagerness, my disappointment, and I open my mind and I listen to him. I breathe. He's right. He's ABSOLUTELY right. In a worst-case scenario, I will run that engine for the next 40 consecutive hours and that has been his standing order all along - make sure the engine will get me from San Diego to Oxnard if there is no wind. He's done what I've asked him to do, and all he's asking is another 15-30 minutes of time to do a sea trial before I head out.

That turns out to not be the worst-case scenario, by the way.

Anyway, I reluctantly agree. If I were in his shoes, I'd do the same thing. I'm proud of my work, he's proud of his, and he wants to make sure that his work will stand up to the test it is about to take.

So I realign the schedule - we set a time to meet in the morning for the sea trial, with a new expected departure time of noon on Saturday. That has us arriving at first light on Monday. Greg naively thinks he will still be able to go to work that day.

I think - "it's good to be young." I recall my days as a young gun PJ, giving myself an IV to start the morning if I had been out having too much fun the night before. The job comes first.

We finally get to the marina just before 9 pm, manage to find a Thai restaurant that is still open, get some dinner, go grocery shopping and stow our gear. It's midnight before we're done for the day, with an anticipated 8 am sea trial tomorrow.

It's been a long day, and we've basically accomplished nothing.

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Saturday, May 1 - Morning

I'm up at 6 am, expecting the mechanic (who I'll call "Manny" to protect the innocent) around 8. I wake the crew, and in what becomes a running joke, exhort them to "eat some breakfast - it's going to be a long day." I remind them of this several times as they slowly wake up, look for the showers in the marina, grab some coffee and otherwise enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning.

I want the boat ready to go when Manny shows up, and after talking with him now for several hours, I know him to be a gruff, salty sea dog with little patience for disagreement and no tolerance for fools. I want the sea trial to happen on time, be uneventful and get him out of my hair. He's somewhat annoying, mostly because everything he says is RIGHT, and I'm not quite adjusting to the differences between land and sea. I'm somewhat in 'software' and 'marketing' mode - there is a schedule, there are deliverables and you do what it takes to meet those schedules. Just deliver, you know?

It simply doesn't work that way in the marine world. Tide and time may wait for no man, but everything else...happens in its own time regardless of what my 'needs' may be. I'm a fast learner, but it will be another 48 hours before I really learn this lesson.

Manny arrives at 7:30. The crew is wolfing down their breakfast as he is coming down the dock. Naturally, the only person who doesn't eat breakfast that morning is me. I'm too busy making the boat secure for the journey and quickly walking through all the boat systems to familiarize myself with where everything is and how it all works. 

I *want* it to be like test driving a car - you hop in it, turn the key and go driving. But it just isn't that simple. 

Manny comes on board and this is the first time I've actually met him, and he doesn't disappoint. He's as salty as they come, with a weather beaten and sun-cracked face that makes him look far older than his 60+ years. He chain smokes - in the 3 hours that I'm with him, he is not without a cigarette in his mouth for more than 2 minutes. His gruff demeanor belies a genuine caring but his inner clock is of a man who hates being late, but is perpetually 15 minutes behind a too-full schedule. His energy is rushed and frenetic until you get a beer in his hand. My favorite moment with him was sharing a cold beer just before departure - partly because I was leaving him, but also because that's when he seemed to be most at ease himself.

We do the sea trial - the engine is fine and everything looks good. We take on fuel and water, get a few additional supplies and by noon, we're finally ready to go.

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Saturday - Afternoon/Early Evening

It's a glorious day to be on the water. We make our way out of the harbor, raise the main sail, unfurl the jib and, still under power, set the autopilot on a course for Catalina.

We've got very light winds, so we need the motor. I set a watch schedule that will have me start the evening shifts - I'm a bit of a night owl anyway and I know that adjusting one's body clock to being awake and alert at 2-4 am is not easy, and I'm trying to break my crew in gently by taking the harder shifts. So around 5 pm, with the sails flying and the steady drone of the engine chugging away, I turn control of the boat over to Greg and go down below to get some sleep.

A few hours later, I'm awakened with a gentle pat on my shoulder.

"Uh...Mark? I think there's a problem with the engine."

I'm awake in a flash. There appears to be smoke in the cabin where I'm sleeping and the room is full of the sweet pungent smell of a diesel engine that is struggling. I bolt out of my bunk, grab a flashlight and stumble around under the pitching of the boat at sea, shaking the cobwebs of sleep off while trying to unloosen the hardware to get to the engine.

The engine sounds like it's laboring, but honestly, I know next to nothing about diesel engines. I'm a mid-level gas engine mechanic, but diesels operate differently, so I don't know what 'normal' sounds or looks like except for a couple of tips I picked up from my surveyor when I bought the boat.

"This Perkins is a great old engine," he said. "It will leak a little oil (they all do), but if you keep her full of oil, diesel and water, they'll run forever." He gives me tips on using an infrared thermometer to check the water temperature - it needs to be between 170-220 degrees for proper operation, and tells me this is the most important thing I can do to ensure long life of the engine - keep the temps in that range.

I get a quick primer on the cooling system on a diesel engine. Water comes in from the sea, flows into a pump and circulates around the engine, drawing heat away before exiting the system out the back of the boat. There are several places to read the temperature in order to diagnose where a problem might be. Temperatures will be below 100 as water comes into the system, around 140-160 before it hits the heat exchanger (think of that as a radiator for a boat), hover between 170-210 as it travels around the engine and then reduce down to 120 or less in the exhaust.

I grab the temperature gun. The engine is reading 220-240 degrees. It had been running around 160-170 when we left. I think I've got a problem, but I don't know what it is.

Saturday - Evening

The 'smoke' clears out of the cabin quickly with all the engine doors and hatches open. It turns out to be water vaporizing on the engine block - I discover much later that my water overflow tank had a crack in it and it was dripping water onto the engine where it was instantly turned into steam.

I can see that I might have a water problem, and I've got plenty of water on board, but before I can shut the engine down and check the water levels, I discover another, more troublesome problem - one that will vex me for the rest of the trip.

It's now dark, so I switch on cabin lights.

Nothing.

I switch on my navigation lights - still nothing.

I go to the cockpit and check the autopilot - it's flickering and barely lit. Look at my battery charger to see that I've got less than 7 volts of battery left on a system that should read around 14. Fun fact about marine batteries - you only get around 50% of actual use from a standard battery before it goes dead.

My batteries are dead. How can my batteries be dead? I've been running the engine for the past 8 hours and shouldn't that be charging the batteries as we go?

Winds are non-existent. The sails are floundering, a constant clang of rigging lazily flogging about searching for wind.Without the engine, we're not going anywhere. We're roughly 35 miles out to sea at  night without lights or power and with an unknown engine problem.

Welcome to life at sea.

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So now I have 3 BIG problems:

    1) I have an unknown water problem with my engine that could ruin my engine if left unchecked for too     long. I need to shut the engine down to check the problem out.

    2) If I shut the engine down, I don't have enough battery power to start it again.

    3) Why isn't the engine charging the batteries?

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I manage to test the water level in the engine without having to shut the engine down. It's a cringe-worthy moment, expecting the worst. I've got to open the radiator cap with the engine running and hope that it's not boiling over and going to scald me as soon as I loosen the cap.  I have maybe a 3 inch gap to stick my entire arm into the engine department to get to the radiator cap.

Still, there is no other way to check the water level. If the water is boiling over, I'm getting scalded. 

Surprisingly, that doesn't happen. I'm no fan of working on an engine that is running, especially one that has been running for 8 hours and is in a boat that is bobbing up and down and swaying from side to side at sea. With one slight touch, slip or bump into the engine, I'm going to have an instantaneous 2nd degree burn as a prize.

But oddly, the water level seems about right, I don't get scalded and I manage to avoid burning myself on the engine but a curiosity remains - I aim my infrared sensor at various points on the engine, and temps all appear to be within normal range, except for one particular area where the readings vary from 240 to a high of 280.

I'm perplexed. I'm also worried that I'm going to overheat the engine, and a new engine costs around $10K. That would be a big hit to my budget right out the gate.

I'm also trying to get Greg to work on Monday, but the math is pretty clear that this probably isn't going to happen. I dial the engine back to idle speed so we can make 1-2 knots of headway and hope the engine cools down.

But we're still running at night with no lights, no radio and soon - no electronic navigational guidance.

Sunday - Middle Watch (midnight to 4 am)

After working the problem for several hours, I put the crew down for some rest and I take the midnight watch. We're all tired and still getting sea legs, adjusting to life in constant motion. Greg and Orion discover that sleeping below decks at sea is an acquired skill - you will initially be MORE seasick down below until you get used to the smells and motion. Once you get used to it, it's a warmer, more comfortable place to sleep, but they're not interested in getting used to it, so we rustle up some blankets and sleeping bags, and they sleep on the deck. They turn down my initial offer to bring the sofa cushions topside.

Once again, I say to myself "it's good to be young." Just the thought of sleeping on a fiberglass deck without a cushion makes my back ache.

The night goes smoothly. Brilliantly, even. I LOVE sailing at night, and despite the fact that I have no radio, navigation aids or lights, I remember why I love sailing so much. We get faint whispers of a breeze, enough to get us up to 3-4 kts, the stars are out, I've got a compass to steer by, no other traffic for miles around and what more could a boy want?

I'm checking engine temps every 5-10 minutes or so, continuing to try and to work the problem. The water temperature coming into the engine is normal. It's normal at the key places where it enters and exits the heat exchanger. It's normal when it exits the boat.

Why is it so high mid-engine, and is that really a concern? The engine turns over lazily and steadily at idle, and every time I add a few RPMS, the mid-engine temperature spikes dramatically, as high as 300 at one point, but persistently in the 220 - 240 range.

Alas, there is no Google at sea. All I can do is make slow progress, try to figure it out and enjoy my first night out at sea in many years. It's truly a glorious night. My crew is sleeping soundly around me, the distant lights of the coast form an eerie-looking backlight to the fog as it rolls in and we're making progress. 

We're behind schedule, but by my calculations, we should get to Catalina by noon on Sunday and Oxnard around 1600 on Monday, a day later than expected. 

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Sunday - Morning/Afternoon

I learn how to nap while at the helm over the evening by rigging a 'faux' autopilot with the lines, and Sunday morning finds me still at the helm with the sun coming up and pods of dolphins swimming around the boat. I wake the crew and they eagerly run up to the bow to watch the show and try to get some video. They are largely unsuccessful - Orion has been inflicted with the dreaded mal de mer and isn't moving too quickly or with much enthusiasm, and Greg's phone battery is dead so he has no camera.

I would count at least 7 different pods of dolphins swimming around the boat during our trip, and have ONE video to show for it. I had to have Greg take the helm so I could get some proof that yes, we DID actually have dolphins accompany us on the journey, and it was quite magical, indeed.


The rest of the day was spent flogging about in low wind conditions, making 2-3 knots of occasional headway. We're in the middle of the Catalina channel and can see where we want to go, but alas, we're against the wind and the current and without a fully-functioning engine, we simply can't get there.

Once again, math reigns supreme and I inform Greg that there is no way that he's going to be at work tomorrow. He calls his boss on my phone, explains the situation and everything is cool - as long as he's back at work on Tuesday.

We also experience another anomaly - the batteries have recharged almost to full over night. I've got one solar panel on board, so I would expect some power to be put back into the batteries, but certainly not at night and not to the extent that we have.

Greg checks the problem out and we finally learn the source of our intermittent power issues - the alternator belt had shown signs of wearing down before finally breaking. We rummage through all the various lockers and drawers on board searching for a spare - we find a belt that *sort of* fits and we take a risk that feels HUGE at the time - with our battery banks reading full, we can shut the engine down and expect it to restart.

If they don't restart, we'll be in a deeper layer of suck.

Greg installs the new belt while I take the helm. I'm grateful for his presence on board - he's worked on engines and boats before and he's actually having fun tackling these problems. Like I said, he's got a great spirit.

It's not a fun job working on a sailboat engine while it bobs about at sea. The engine compartment is cramped and there's just not enough space to be comfortable, even when the boat is still.  Nevertheless, he gets the belt installed. It's loose-fitting and not perfect, but I'm hoping that it will provide us with enough power that I can turn on the navigation lights and radio tonight and maybe the autopilot too.

The engine restarts and after breathing a huge sigh of relief, I check the engine temperatures to find that they are still fluctuating above norms. I can't trust running the engine at more than idle speed, but hey, we're sailing (albeit very slowly), we have electricity and the wind is forecast to get up to 25-30 kt winds later this evening and into the morning. Those will be ideal conditions for us, and while we may be getting in a day late, there is hope.

Orion makes us all some lunch and we have a short toast to celebrate Orion and Greg spending their first 24 consecutive hours at sea. I turn the helm over to Greg and take a nap. I've been up for something like 40 out of the last 48 hours and I'm bushed.

Sunday - Late Afternoon/Early Evening

The engine quits.

One moment it's churning laconically like a horse sauntering down a trail in an old Western, and in an instant, there is silence.

It's funny how quiet can waken you from a deep sleep. I get accustomed to the white noise around me pretty quickly and the lack of it is an alert that is something is wrong. Before Greg can come get me, I'm up on deck and asking what's wrong.

"I don't know", he said. "It just quit."

We try to restart it. We've got battery power and it turns over, but doesn't spark. We keep trying until the battery makes the dreaded sound that it's draining rapidly and the starter turns over laboriously. We stop trying.

Now we have no engine. And still no wind. According to the forecast, it's coming, and should be here in another 4-6 hours, so all we really have to do is wait. 

And... figure out how I'm going to get my boat to a new harbor into a slip that I've never seen before, and oh yeah - I'm in a shared slip, which means there will be a boat next to me that I have to worry about not hitting once we get there. I have one big problem right now and am already working on how to solve the next problem. We're without an engine, and in a sailboat that needs at least 10 kts of wind to even get moving. We're okay for now, but I'm looking ahead and not liking what I see.

In the meanwhile, we finally pass Catalina island after staring at it on our beam for the past 12 hours and we're clawing our way for LA harbor against the little wind that is out there. We're about halfway home.

It's important that we get past LA harbor in daylight hours - it's a major shipping channel and without engine power, we don't have any way to charge the batteries, and thus don't have either navigation lights OR radio.

We will be invisible at night while crossing through one of the busiest shipping ports in the world.

Sunday - Evening

As darkness falls, I'm only 2-3 miles away from the entrance to LA harbor.  I'm on the lee side, away from the shipping channel, but I've got to cross back to get to open water and hopefully, the big winds that are predicted on the other side. It means that I have to head back towards Catalina again,  something I'm loathe to do because it was such an effort to get to where we're at and I hate to lose precious headway.

Around 10 pm, we head out towards open water. I'm thinking that not many cargo ships will be coming in that late and thankfully, this is the case, although around 2 am another sailing vessel around my size comes within 100 yards of us as he motored out to Catalina. The winds are still non-existent, but the forecast is still calling for gale force winds (35-45 kts) just 10-15 miles off shore.

I WANT those winds.

The crew sleeps through the night. I'm kind of wired all night long and cursing the wind, or rather, the lack of it. There is nothing more frustrating for a sailor than a lack of wind. The nautical term is you're "in irons", which sounds like you're in jail, which is what you are, really. Locked up and not going anywhere. The rigging flogs aimlessly, creating a rhythmless irritating background noise that grinds on your soul, a constant flaunting of the lack of wind that serves only to taunt you with your ineptitude.

It's not your fault that there isn't any wind, and you aren't going anywhere, but it sure feels like it is.

The night passes slowly. Into the darkness we sail.

Monday - Morning

Half asleep, half awake at the helm, and in a dream-like state I stare at the sea. Big sweeping swells rock the boat like a cradle. These swells are huge - around 8 feet in height, coming in at 12-15 second intervals. They are both kind of peaceful to look at and menacing. These waves have travelled some 8,000 miles completed unabated from across the Pacific ocean, and when you consider how deep the  ocean is, to see waves that size is truly awe-inspiring.

It's kind of fun at first, like riding a gentle roller coaster. You see the wave come at you, the boat slowly rises to the top of the wave and then WHEEEEEEEEEEEE, you slide down the back side of the wave. You do that every 12-15 seconds. It's kind of entrancing.

Around 6 am, my reverie is broken by the sound of a helicopter approaching from a distance.

I have a quick flashback in my sleep-deprived state. That helo sounds familiar. In my youth, I flew on helicopters as a USAF Pararescuman (PJ for for short) and I know the different sounds that different models make. This one doesn't sound like a small tourist or news helo  - it sounds more like a military H60 approaching from the east and heading my way. 

"It's a little early for a training flight", I say out loud to no one in particular. The crew is still asleep.

The sound gets louder and jolts me awake (again). I take a quick assessment of our situation and a little panic hits. Those beautiful long and big swells that I had been admiring? With the lack of wind and incoming tide we were actually sailing BACKWARDS and had lost around 12 miles of headway.

WHAT? Let me say that again. We had been sailing BACKWARDS for the last several hours. TWELVE MILES. Backwards. My sails were floundering, completely useless. I was technically back in the shipping channel for the approach to LA Harbor and unable to move with no engine power.

Was I in an unauthorized part of the shipping lane? Could this be a rescue chopper? 

I had a backup GPS unit and charts. My position relative to the shipping lane seemed okay, but I was still drifting backwards towards Catalina island, which I estimated to be roughly 7 miles away.  Wait. What?

Now my mind turned towards another potential problem - I was literally drifting towards an island with no wind, and thus, with no steering capabilities.

I could see the helicopter approaching from a distance on a straight line towards me. I'm still thinking they must be on a training mission. I had several emergency backup people that I had been in contact with over the course of the journey, and even though I'm well past my expected arrival time, all of my emergency contacts were aware of my current situation, so there should not have been a need to call for search and rescue. 

We're floundering, but not in need of rescue. We're in need of wind.

The helo approaches and flies directly overhead and continues to head out to sea. I breathe a sigh of relief - the last thing I want is for SAR resources to be expended on me when it's not necessary, and it would be monumentally embarrassing to me professionally - I've always been the person doing the rescues, not needing them.

But then the helicopter circles back over my boat and does three tight circles around us. I can see that it's a Coast Guard H60, and they are close enough that I can see the rescue swimmer and flight engineer looking at us from above.

I give an "ok" sign, several times. Not a thumbs up, because that's confusing. A thumbs up could mean that everything is alright, or, if you're in the helicopter, it could mean that the person down below has need of medical attention and needs someone hoisted from the ship.

After the third circle around the boat, the helicopter turns off and heads in a northerly direction.

I breathe a big sigh of relief. But I am still panicked and curious, and it dawns on me that I *should* have turned my VHF radio on when I heard them approach. I was tired and for all purposes, had forgotten that I even had a radio because of the persistent electrical issues and lack of battery power we had for the entire trip. I had been saving the battery power for when we really needed it.

This seemed to be a time when we really needed it.

I turn the radio on, using whatever battery power we had left to learn that the Coast Guard was indeed on a SAR mission. A 41' fishing boat (same size as mine) was overdue with last known location in my area. They were probably trying to hail me on the radio while they were circling above and when I didn't respond, must have figured that with two masts and a jib flogging about, I wasn't the fishing vessel they were looking for.

Who needs coffee in the morning when you've got a SAR helicopter circling over head to wake you up?

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Once the helo flew off, I could turn my attention to the new potential crisis situation developing. I was drifting backwards on the current and the swell towards Catalina island with no wind and no power. 

Tides change roughly every 6 hours, with about a 2 hour period where they shift to change direction. I didn't have a tide table handy (captains error), so I didn't really know long we had been drifting backwards. Based on previous known tide times from SD and Catalina, I estimated that we had probably been drifting backwards for 2-4 hours. 

But there's a BIG difference between drifting backwards 12 miles in 2 hours or in 4 hours with an island that you're going to run into around 7 miles away. If the tide had shifted 2 hours ago, we were probably going to run into that island in about 1.5 hours, helpless to do anything about it. 

If they had shifted 4 hours ago, then we would soon be fine and the tide would carry us along our merry way in the direction that we wanted to go.

I had quite luckily purchased boat towing the day before we set on the journey, on the advice of Franco- one of my emergency contacts - a sailor that I had only met online about a week prior to my journey. He was a more experienced sailor with a 51' Formosa sailboat out of Long Beach, and we Formosa owners enjoy a small but tight knit community. He had agreed to follow my journey and meet me at Catalina if all went well, and to serve as an emergency back up in the event things didn't go well. I had insurance on my boat, but the day before I left he mentioned that I should probably get towing insurance as a back up.

So I'm drifting backwards towards an island, powerless to do anything about it, and in a worst-case scenario, I'm going to be shipwrecked in 1.5 hours. OR, I could catch the tide out past the island and catch up to the reported big winds that were waiting for me 10 miles past the other side of the island.

I call the towing company to get more information. The soonest they could get a boat to me would be...

...in 1.5 hours.

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Sailing is a never-ending decision-making tree. While it's peaceful and relaxing much of the time, when it's time to act, it's time to act. 

Running the math again - even if I miss the island, catch a current and get out to the favorable winds waiting for me, it's still another 70 miles to Channel Islands Harbor from my current position. Even IF  I can average 5-6 kts in those winds, I'm another 12-14 hours away from my destination, which will have me coming into a strange port and a new berth with no engine power somewhere between 10 pm and 5 am on Tuesday morning, when my man Greg needs to be back to work or risk losing his job.

There's no way that I want him to lose his job for doing me a favor, and there is no way that I want to come into my new home at night and risk literally running into my new neighbor because I can't control my boat.

So I called it off. Swallowed my pride, looked at the greater good, and called the tow company for a tow. My plan was to go to Catalina, offload my crew and pay for them to take the ferry back to LA, where my brother would meet them and take them home to Oxnard. I would stay with the boat at Catalina and try to get the engine repaired from there.

The journey was about to end.

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Calling the tow company was a bit of a keystone cops affair. My radio was now dead so I couldn't call them by their preferred channel. I luckily still had cell phone service, but when calling them, got put into a phone tree trying to upsell their services. After the second call back, I just punched #0 to get to a person, and in the middle of that conversation, got disconnected or cut off because, you know...I'm calling from the ocean.

We finally get a connection and I get him my coordinates. The tow boat got there in about an hour, after I explained the necessity for a speedy response, and he caught up to us when we were still about 2 miles offshore. We weren't in any immediate danger of hitting the island, but in the end, it would have been a pretty close call had they not gotten there when they did. 

The winds did pick up a bit once they got to us, so who knows?

Luckily, the policy that I bought was a premium version, and instead of getting towed just a few miles to Catalina, I ended up getting towed nearly 70 miles to Oxnard for my $185 annual insurance fee. Which would have been a $6500 bill had I not had insurance. We get back late Monday afternoon and on the tow ride home, had another toast to celebrate that we passed 48 continuous hours at sea. 

We all agreed that it seemed longer that. 

The tow boat was amazing and was able to get me into my shared slip without any issues. It was a long day for them too - they still had to turn around and go home, but as the 'courtesy notice' that I received later indicated, it was a pretty profitable day for them.

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And so ends the first journey of Emerald Star. Not with a flourish, but a whimper, limping home with a new set of issues that will need to be addressed. But home, at last. There's no place like it.

Now the work begins. 




Comments

Ania Helwing said…
Amazing story! Well told adventure!