The Cure


        A sea lion flopped onto the end of a dock near GANNET’s  new slip at Driscoll’s Mission Bay Marina and a white egret landed on another just as I was about to leave.  I lingered long enough to startle the egret.  I don’t want messy birds, however elegantly formed, to make GANNET their home.  Egret flapped; sea lion reclining with eyes comfortably closed,  I pushed the little sloop out, stepped aboard and whirred almost silently into Quivira Basin, where I had lived aboard in the late 1960s and from which I began my open boat voyage in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in 1978.

        That late October day in 2012 GANNET, my Moore 24, had been in San Diego two weeks, following a tow from near Chicago.  Thanks to a SPOT device on her, I saw that just before midnight on October 11, she passed within a mile of the suburban house in Kirkwood, Missouri, where as a teenager more than a half century earlier I had sat in my room, staring out over an empty field and dreaming of the ocean.  Nice touch, life.

        It  had taken me a long time that morning to reconfigure GANNET’s cabin from dock to sailing mode.  I have come to realize that her interior is a puzzle of interlocking parts which have to be arranged and rearranged in specific order.  I am getting better at that and at stowing objects that I need within arm’s reach of Central, as I call the aft-facing Sportaseat on the Great Cabin floor which is the only place that I at 6’ 1” can sit unbent; and I find I need fewer movements performing daily tasks, such as making coffee in the morning or a gin an tonic in the evening; this last drunk, as, of course, is Laphroaig, out of a Dartington crystal double Old-Fashioned glass, not standard equipment on Moore 24s.

        However when I cleared the pipe berths so that I could sleep on them and moved my clothes bags, a sail bag that now serves as a laundry bag, a never used Porta Potti--at dock I use shore facilities; what I do at sea is my own business--a life jacket, and various sail bags that hold sails, to the v-berth; and moved a sleeping bag and pillow from the bow to accompany my foul weather gear--unneeded--on the quarter berths, the puzzle was in disarray.

        I raised the mainsail at the slip in order to reeve the leech reef lines--also unneeded--then lowered it before I set off.  As I passed the sea lion and sea bird covered bait barge, the smell was pronounced.

        Just outside the basin I set the sails and raised the Torqeedo, proceeding to short tack out the channel between the breakwaters.  The distance from GANNET’s slip to the ocean is slightly more than a mile.

        No other boats were on the water.  It was a week day, but I found when I lived in San Diego before that boat use here mostly ends as it does in places with less salubrious climates on Labor Day.

        I had a winch handle in place, but it was never needed.

        Looking under the mainsail before one tack, I noticed a North Sails label on the jib and realized why it had gone up and down relatively easily:  I’d bent on the wrong sail.  This was the recut experimental one.  The new, extremely balky sail was in one of the bags on the v-berth. 

        I wasn’t about to try to rectify my error underway and wouldn’t until I returned to GANNET the following January.

        About halfway out the channel I caught the tip of a finger on the exposed end of a split ring.  A minor injury, but copious blood.  I was wearing old clothes and kept the finger pressed to my Levis, sailing truly single handed until I got out in the ocean, set the tiller pilot and went below for a band aid.

        The wind was from WNW and light.  GANNET spent the day close-hauled on port tack, mostly making a smooth 5 knots, occasionally 6 with a little spray over the bow.  It was pleasant, easy sailing. 

        A couple of miles beyond the breakwater, I went below to check the iPad iNavX chartplotting app and found that I had access to the Internet via my ATT data plan.  I went to the SPOT tracking page and found no track.  I had pressed the “Track” button at the dock so those interested could follow us, but the light is difficult to see in bright sunlight.  So I went on deck and pressed it again, this time successfully.

        From the sea Mission Beach looked just as it did when I sailed here forty years ago:  waves curling onto a two mile gradual arc of sand: low homes and condos; blue sky; sparkling sea.

        As the day continued, the wind veered and headed us, until at sunset we were converging with land near San Clemente with dramatic purple mountains inland.  At last light I tacked, then eased off to a close reach for more comfortable sleeping.

        For the first hours of the night the half moon reflecting on an almost flat ocean was lovely.  Then the moon set and the wind died.  GANNET’s boom bounced around, causing me to realize I hadn’t yet devised a preventer.

        Overall I slept rather well, waking many times, seeing the lights of a few other vessels, but none near.  The new lee cloths worked well.  At one time while awake I found myself thinking that leaving both pipe berths empty so I can move my weight to whichever is to windward is inefficient, and that it might be better to stow some other heavy objects, such as water jerry cans behind the lee cloth on the port pipe berth, whose space is compromised by spare lines tied to a tube near the overhead anyway, and just sleep on the starboard berth.

        Around midnight, I came about and retraced my track for a couple of hours to delay our return to Mission Bay until after dawn, tacking back around 2 a.m.  Dawn found us 34 miles northwest of the waypoint I’d put in iNavX just off the Mission Bay jetties.

        After breakfast, I set the asymmetrical with Facnor furling gear on the Forte carbon fiber bow sprit for the first time.  It all went perfectly, even if the wind was so light we were only making 4 knots on a broad reach.  I gybed a couple of times just for practice.  Once part of the asymmetrical passed aft of the furled jib.  I was able to pull it back and learned that it will usually be necessary to pull the clew of the sail around with the sheet to gybe cleanly.

        As we neared La Jolla, I gybed again and remembered why I have removed all snap shackles from my previous boats when the snap shackle on the asymmetrical’s port sheet caught on the furled jib, opened and dropped  into the water.  I pulled the line aboard, then furled the asymmetrical, which went smoothly with the new furling line, lowered it, set the jib, and proceeded to remove snap shackles from the sheets, then from the spinnaker and spare jib halyards.  I thought the North jib must be on a halyard with a snap shackle.  If so, I’d remove it when I lowered that sail.  Bowlines don’t come undone.  At least mine never have. 

        With the smaller headsail our speed dropped and so did the wind until I was all the way in Quivira Basin and approaching the slip.  Even then it only increased to nine knots. 

        GANNET is an ultra-light.  I think of her as a leaf.     

        I cut the Torqeedo and under bare poles we were still making 1.8 knots.  Far too fast.  I gave the Torqeedo some reverse to slow us, but knew that a leaf carries no way and when I turned the small sloop into her slip and the wind she would be stopped.  She was.  I even had to give us a little forward on the Torqeedo before I could step on the dock.

        When GANNET was in the Midwest I suffered from a disease for which I invented a name:  captiaterraphobia:  Latin for fear of being trapped by land.

        Now I was cured.  GANNET had returned to sea lions and the sea.