I was sailing today. Singlehanded which is pretty normal for me. Went out to the ocean where the wind forecast was 12-17 knots. In harbor the wind was blowing pretty hard. At least 15. Out in the ocean. No wind at all. So I came back in and decided to sail in the harbor that was blowing about 15. I tacked a few times and my jib sheet got caught on the spinnaker eye in the mast. I ran up the deck to free it up and for whatever reason I grabbed it from below and the force of the wind in the sail pulled the sheet and my hand got caught between the sheet and the spinnaker eye. I pulled my hand out and looked down. My glove was ripped. My fingertip bloody. Didn’t know how bad it was. So I pulled in the jib the best I could with one hand. Wrapped my finger up the best I could and headed back to the slip with one hand. The injury wasn’t bad once I got the boat back to the slip. Pulled about an inch of the skin off of the finger. Not deep at all. The glove took the brunt of the pressure. Without it it would have been far worse. Good lesson. Gloves are essential! I was in harbor with no waves just wind. If I was in the ocean in big waves and wind it would have been very challenging to bring the boat in with basically one hand as i couldnt really hold anything with that hand. To turn it into a learning experience I realized that the key to handling this all was to relax and think clearly. I see how easily that just a little panic can be the difference between life and death in an injury situation especially in challenging conditions. It’s the following day…it’s less sore and I’m already hoping I will be ok for sailing this weekend. I definitely have the sailing bug.
The weather was great. Warm day in March. The wind was predicted to be between 10-15 knots. The sea state had 5 foot waves in 15 second intervals. Nothing about this screamed amazing sail day to me. A few friends wanted to tag along so we fired up Cuajota and headed to the harbor entrance. We got out of the harbor and sure enough the 5 ft waves turned into some pretty nice chop. Large power boats didnt help that as they came and went. With sails up just outside the harbor we flopped around. We were sailing but at a whopping 2 knots. I was looking at the 155 genoa in the boat wondering if I should have thrown that up today instead of the 125 that I use regularly. I decided to motor out a bit farther and to the North and see if we got any wind. I was wondering how all the forecasts predicted wind in the afternoon yet there was absolutely none. We sat and bobbed about for a bit longer and I was just about to call it and head back into the Harbor when I felt a slight breeze. Turned the boat a bit and yes, started moving. Within a minute of 2, it was up to a 15 knot steady wind! This is where it gets good.
With the wind blowing I trimmed for a close haul and the boat took off! Its an amazing feeling to feel a sailboat dig in and power up with a nice wind. The 5 foot waves were no longer pushing us around, we were slicing through them! A few times with cheers from us as the spray went into the air. No it wasn’t smooth seas, but I liked it! I did a few tacks, and a few gybes and the boat was great on all points of sail. The wind seemed to be a constant 15, no puffs or gusts. I found that the boat was nearing the harbor entrance but this was way too much fun so tack and back into it! Stayed out a few more hours until the sun was beginning to set. It blowed a constant 15 the entire time. I had a giant grin on my face the entire time. I said it 3 or times during the sail that this was the best sail I had ever had. I had great sails before, some relaxing, some nail biting. This one was somewhere in the middle. The wind provided the perfect energy for the boat. Seems like it was made for 15 knot winds. Perfectly behaved and balanced. The sea state provided some entertaining conditions. Tacking and gybing between sets, spray and splash, and the boat moving over the waves. To me it was the equivalent of driving a perfectly balanced sports car through some nice twisty backroads. It just doesnt get better than that! I also think my comfort level is there now. In a year and a half, I am confident that I can completely control a boat in 15-20 knot winds and a choppy sea state. So I was able to just enjoy the boat, the sail, the view, and appreciate how magical that is. The other thing was the speed. My normal ocean sailing speeds were 4-5 knots. An occasional 6. Hull speed on my boat is about 6 knots, so I am told. I had a buddy from North Sails on my boat and he gave me some rigging advice. Since then, my boat has been doing 7-9 knots! I recorded a fasted speed ever at 9.6 on GPS a few weeks ago, and this sail I got to 7.9. Not bad at all for a 38 year old boat! So for me it was more than just a nice day, but it was the feeling that I am learning the boat, understanding these better and better and the results speak for themselves. A day later, even 2 days later, I still think it was my best sail ever. Looking forward to many, many more!
Today was a nice clear day…I decided it would be nice to take the boat out and open up the sails for a bit. It has been on the news that its whale migrating season and quite a few whales have been seen off the coast. In the back of my mind I thought it would be nice to see a few but you never know. I have seen lots of Dolphin, a few Killer Whales and of course the local Sea Lions. The wind was very light maybe 5 knots. I shut the motor off and let the light breeze slowly glide the boat through the calm water when I heard something…Not sure what it was, I turned my music all the way down..I had some jazz playing lightly in the background. Then I heard it again. Yup thats a whale! I scanned the horizon and about a mile away I say the whale breaching! I started the motor and headed that way. I got to about the area I saw the whale and nothing…completely calm. Stopped the motor and again let the gentle breeze fill the sails. A few minutes later…WHOOSH right next to the boat! Scared the S___ out of me! It literally was 20 yards away! I saw the whale submerge and swim away from the boat…I grabbed my iPhone and recorded the rest…just a whale swimming and blowing his spout. Pretty cool stuff though.
Cuajota was starting to look a bit dull and chalky and it had been about a year since it was polished and waxed so rather than pay someone to do it, I decided it was time for me to spend some quality time with her and massage her curves. Lol. I decided on a 2 part Meguiars system. Part 1 was the #44 color restorer gel coat polish designed to remove the haze and restore shine and part 2 was the premium boat carnauba wax. Both specifically designed for marine use and gel coat. It took a couple weekends, a bag of terry cloths and lots of sweat and elbow grease to get her completely done but what a difference! She is shiny like new and the gel coat is on great condition. Now that the top sides are so shiny it’s time to really think about addressing the deck and cockpit.
Went to the boat for a quick sail…opened it up, looked in and saw the floor flooded by a few inches…I hit the switch for the bilge pump which is on auto, and no pump…So I proceeded to wet-vac the boat to remove the water and see what it was. My initial thought was the head exploded from the heat…nope thats salt water and its pretty clean. So its coming in the boat…from where? The packing gland is now my thought. It was dripping a bit more than I liked…I talked to the boat yard that hauled it out last year then replaced the stuffing box and they said a few extra drips is better than no drips. Called up KJ who knows the boat well and he said lets look at the packing gland…a STREAM of water was flowing from it. Once I got the bilge dry, I looked at the bilge pump and the positive power wire was broken off. A week ago it was working fine. My initial though since it was Saturday evening was fix the bilge, keep an eye on it until Monday and take it to the boat yard. I called Pat from Balboa Boat Yard who did the work on it last year. He wasnt there but I left a message. He called me back from Lake Arrowhead (great guy!) and told me how to adjust the packing gland. It seemed a bit daunting…but what choice did I have? Grabbed a big channel lock and 90 seconds later the leak was fixed. Now to clean it all up tomorrow…never got to go on that sail…glad this happened in the slip and not 20+ miles offshore. Tomorrow Im going to look at the failed bilge pump…I connected it to new power leads and it fired up..so I’ll look at that in more detail…Maybe I’ll get that sail after all!
Wow time flies….its been a year since I have owned Cuajota…and what an amazing year its been! I have learned to be a competent sailor. I have learned to trust the boat and be SAFE in varying conditions. I have learned about wind and water conditions. I have sailed from the mainland to a small island and back safely. There are so many things that I have done in the last year that I had NO idea that I would ever do. Most of my sailing is singlehanded, and I like it that way. I truly enjoy embarking on a day sail with just me and the boat. Its not that I don’t enjoy the camaraderie of a few sailing buds, I do…it’s not like I don’t like it when the wife tags along for a leisurely sail…I Do…but there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you take the boat out, sail it, see things like dolphins, whales, and sharks, and come back in safely with me and the boat in one piece. In the year I have had the boat it’s been relatively pain free. I replaced a smoking battery and got a used jib. Other than that it’s been just basic cleaning. We moved the boat from a mooring to a slip. I really like having the boat on the slip. It’s made upkeep a bit easier. To commemorate the 1 year anniversary as well as a birthday sail for KJ we took Cuajota out for a nice day sail. I hoped there would be wind at 11:30 when we took off. In Newport Beach the wind doesn’t usually pick up until the afternoon. We headed out of the harbor and headed northwest to see if we could find some good wind. It wasn’t long before the sails were full and the boat was moving. The clouds broke and the sky was perfect. I said to KJ, “if we only had a few more knots of wind, it would be perfect!”. At just that moment the sails got even fuller, the boat heeled and accelerated and we got all the wind we wanted to make the boat fly! This was also the longest sail with the new jib. The last one was a nice 135% North Sails. The new one is a 125% Sobstad. I had the North Sails lift look it over and they were impressed. I was a tad bit worried that the smaller sail area would have a negative effect on performance. It seems to take a tad bit more air to really make the boat fly. It’s better in heavy air by far. It points higher..nearly dead upwind and it’s a dream to handle as it doesn’t hit the spreaders. Misses it by inches. It seems to accelerate faster. I also think it doesn’t reach as well. But the better pointing ability as well as the faster acceleration it’s a good sail. The old one seemed to have a horrible shape and was ripping every time I went sailing. All in all it’s an upgrade. I think a 130 is probably just right for this boat and the winds we have here. I’m splitting hairs though. True boat is super fast and fun now. The anniversary sail proved it. We got back into the harbor and I was smiling for ear to ear.
So I was sailing along this afternoon, enjoying a nice breeze, fairly calm ocean and the sunny skies, when I look up and headed right down the port side of the boat towards me is a dorsal fin. I have seen Dolphin, Orca, Seal, etc….This CLEARLY was nothing I have seen up close…as it passed within about 3 feet of the boat…I looked into its black eye, with no pupil…It swam slowly and didn’t seem to care I was there at all. It was about 6-8 feet long. It kept going and it stayed surfaced for about a minute as I watched it…should I tack and follow it? Then I thought…wait…Thats a SHARK! Shaped like a great white, but if it was it was clearly young at that size…I could see the dark great on its upper body and the white on its lower body clearly…as well as its gills. Wow…what a sight! I grabbed my phone to take a pic or video but it was too far gone to get it up close.
The old jib on cuajota was tired. It seems like every time I went sailing a new hole would pop up in the sail. I was on my third roll of sail repair tape and I would joke to myself but eventually it would stop because the whole leech of the sail would just be tape. I looked on Minney’s website and saw a sail that was just about a perfectvfitbfor my boat! I was skeptical because my boat is an odd size and only 118 boats were made between 1974 and 1980. What wethe chances of this working out? This was also the day for their annual parking lot sale so I was getting an extra 15% off. They pulled out the sail and it was in great shape, but it was cut down from a bigger sail.
We grabbed breakfast, thought about it, and had KJ come down to take a look at it. It was infinitely better than my old sail but they were asking about 1/3 the price of a new sail…that would be a perfect fit for Cuajota….KJ and I agreed it wasn’t a bad deal. I had 5 days to put it on the boat and test it out. If I didn’t like it I’d get a full refund. So I put the sail on the boat and went for a test sail in the harbor. I wanted to give I a try before I left the harbor with it.
I didn’t do much adjusting, just wanted to see how it felt….WOW!!! It was blowing maybe 8-10 knots in the harbor and the boat picked up and took off! I was doing 6.5 knots all the way up the channel. The boat was so controlled and responsive. I absolutely loved it! I went out of the channels and again it was nice. Soooo nice! Headed north and I was pushing 5.9 upwind into some pretty good current. Turned around and absolutely flew downwind! Was it just my mind? I wanted another opinion again. I asked KJ to go for a sail. He had Cuajota for 8 years and is very familiar with how she sails. We also have sailed her a number of times and recently so the next day we went out. This time thee was a Coast Guard small craft warning. We grabbed some foul gear and headed into the ocean. Again, the new sail was wonderful. With so much wind (about 15-20 knots) the boat danced in the chop. It was like she was frolicking out there. It pointed super high into the wind, way higher that the older sail. In that wind and the rough seas the boat was solid with the new headsail. It inspired confidence where the old sail I was afraid of it ripping to shreds in higher winds. We did a few tacks and a few jibes and again had a pretty positive view of the sail. KJ thought it was a great sail. It had brand new UV covers sewn on and the sail material was in perfect shape. No nicks, scratches or repairs. Still I wasn’t 100% convinced. I wanted to go to the North Sails loft and get their opinion. The sail has a North patch on it sp they should know this kind of sail. They said it was a great sail and they we so great they put telltales on it for me and gave me some reeling guides and measured it for me. This sail is a tad bit smaller than the jib that was on there before. I had a 135% jib before and this one measured out to be a 125%. It actually fits the boat a tad bit better. Doesn’t hit the spreaders or get hung up on the mast when tacking. All in all it seems like a great sail in excellent shape for 1/3 the price of a new one. It fits the boat perfectly and has great performance. My only question…am I going to miss that 10%?
The wife sent me a text and said she wanted to go sailing. It was my day off and usually I go out solo because she is tired after work. Great! It’s always great to have her go out with me. Although in the past things can get strange. She thinks I’m a daredevil. I think she worries too much and the truth probably lies in the middle. (if you are reading this sweetheart you are always right). It was an overcast day. The wind was about 7-8 knots. Nothing too bad. I always am a bit anxious about the sea conditions. I am not sure when that will end. In a way I think its good. It makes me double and triple check everything before I head out of the harbor. She was saying the same things…”Is this going to get too bumpy? I see swells out there…”. I reassured her it was not going to be bad at all. Once out of the harbor we motored south west just to clear the coastline and then shut the motor down and opened the headsail. Turned the boat south, and the boat glided. It was calm, relaxing, special. We went down a ways and watched the coast go by. The boat was calm and composed at about 5.5 knots. Saw a pod of dolphins fishing and playing in the water…that never gets old. I began to reminisce. 8 months ago I had never sailed. We were now going out in the ocean with no issues. 6 months ago I was terrified of the open ocean, now I singlehand the boat in 15+ knot winds. Look how far we’ve come!
On the Catalina trip a few weeks ago the #1 battery which is the starting battery started to smoke and heat up. Yup the battery went. It was at least 8 years old according the the previous owner. So it was time to swap it out. It went well…about an hour total time to yank it, go to WestMarine and drop in the new one. The old one was a WestMarine starting battery. The new one dropped in and plugged the boat to shore power. The battery charger meter started charging, (the deep cycle battery #2 I imagine), then dropped off. According to the charger both batteries are now fully charged! I also have been cleaning like crazy! Having the boat on the slip has made this a much easier task and far more convenient. Now to get back out sailing!