Anchor Dilemmas, Drowning the Dinghy and Squalls Galore

 We were in much need of some peace and a whole lot of quiet after our time with the loads of kids in Santa Ana.  So we rested for a few hours before lifting anchor at 10:45 pm and motoring out of the harbor using the track we’d made coming in.

Once out in open water, I hit the hay with the expectation of being awoken sometime after 2 a.m. for a watch shift.  I didn’t sleep soundly (I never do on that first night out on passage) but I also never got the telltale tap-tap-tap on my foot signaling my turn at the helm.  It was 5:45 before I stumbled out of the cabin apologetically.  Mark said he’d felt fine all night, and so had opted to let me sleep as long as he could.

There were plenty of squalls to keep me busy during my watch, with winds ranging from 4.5 knots all the way up to a tense 23.  I was determined not to wake Mark for a sail change that I was capable of doing myself.  I brought in the Code Zero when the wind died down and it hung limply over the foredeck.  Our speed dropped down to 1.3, and I had to run the engines until it picked back up.  The humongous Code Zero sail is my least favorite sail to deal with.  It’s sheer volume and delicate material create a fantastic downwind sail, but also require more TLC and careful attention to the wind levels and angles.  When the wind reached 8 knots, I decided it was time to let it out again.  I gathered my gumption and began to run the lines and unleash the beast.  A quick glance at the anemometer, though, stopped me mid-release - 18 knots had come from nowhere!  Quickly, I scrambled to set the lines up for reeling it in.  The lines were wet from the rain, causing enough friction at one point to give me a nasty rope burn on my hand.  But finally, I got it furled in and secured - not beautifully wrapped, but secured enough.

Then rain, rain, and more rain fell.  Eventually, I got the courage up to unfurl the genoa to the second reefing point.  Winds were behind us at 18 knots consistently, so I couldn’t justify running the engines anymore.  That one went out without incident, and I sighed with relief and felt some of the tension from the Code Zero stress ease.  I’d barely breathed that sigh out when Michael said, “Mom, the dinghy’s filling up with water!”  Sure enough, the plug was out but must have been clogged. There was a good amount of rainwater sloshing around.  I tried to reach the drain to unclog it, but couldn’t quite get there.  Instead, I grabbed the boat hook and fished it around to free any debris.

It wasn’t working.  Plan C - get the manual water pump from the dinghy and begin pumping the ever-deepening pool out.  That worked okay, except that when the dinghy is raised, the aft benches create a barricade.  I had to be a contortionist, lying on my stomach and reaching out in a position that allowed me to fully extend and compress the pump handle.  Adding to the experience was the constant stream of rainwater running off the bimini directly onto my head as I struggled to operate the pump!  Like standing under a drainpipe.  I was almost immediately drenched and the water level wasn’t going down much at all in spite of my gallant efforts.  Ugh.

I was about to wake the captain when he came ambling up into the cockpit to save the day.  One look at me and a grin spread across his face, “What happened to you?  You look like a real sailor!!!”  I was soaked to the bone, with a skinned hand and weary soul and here he stood - so proud of his sexy, soaking wet sailor wife!  Okay, that almost made it all worth it…

I toweled off and plopped down on the cockpit seat, exhausted.  I’d never been so happy to hand over the helm.


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