Monterey – 17 may to 22 may 2018
The night was cold, I’ve always hated the cold and have always looked forward to warmer days. However this night, the night of our first journey towards Monterey, I embraced it, because after this every step south, every nautical mile forward brings us closer to that warmer weather we so desperately crave, and soon cold nights with the diesel heater will be a thing of the past.
We left at 12:45 am. We left this early because we calculated the trip to be around 92 miles according to our chart plotter, and if we made 5 knots at best then we’d be there in 18 hours…3 knots we’d be there in about 30 hours. So we were aiming for arriving in the daylight. We motored out into the slot, and put up our Jib and Mizzen (our favorite sail set up…just because it looks cool) and sailed underneath the quiet orange of the Golden Gate Bridge for the last time. It was…well it was exactly how I wanted to leave; quietly, innocuously, and filled with joy.
The sail down wasn’t half so bad, from lifting anchor to tying up to a slip was 21 hours. The first 18 hours were incredible, it was our first sail down the coast where we didn’t have to motor. We set up the self-steering wind vane (which still needs some fine-tuning) and let the wind carry us south. The night was clear and constant, a north breeze filled our three sails and we moved along nicely around 4.5 knots.
The night slipped steadily away, and the day wore on calmly. It wasn’t until the last two hours, around 1800 when we got into Monterey bay and things turned pretty terrible. A bit earlier we had taken down our mainsail to fly dead downwind with just the jib and mizzen (so the main wouldn’t block the jib’s wind),..and as we entered the bay we started to notice the seas were increasing in height, and reefed as we were, the wind was still pulling us up (a classic indication that you have too much sail up and need to reef!). It just kind of overtook us. We were slow to realize what was going on, but the next thing we knew we were grossly overpowered with our full genoa out. The seas coming directly from behind us pushed and shoved and warped our home, we rose up to crashing peaks, and immediately fell into valleys where the walls of water blocked our view of the land. It was all suddenly too much for us too quick.
It was exactly how I wanted to leave; quietly, innocuously, and filled with joy
We were rounded up many times, and in the middle of the rounding the boat was hit on it’s side by monstrous 10 foot waves and we rolled and took water deep on our rails, and as we were pulled into the wind we felt the full force of 30 knot winds. Often times it’s hard to tell how strong the wind is when it’s behind you…but when it’s blowing right in your face you get it.
The wind vane was out of commission because of a control line I hadn’t properly spliced came undone, so I was at the helm, and being white-knuckled on the wheel, I did our best to keep the nose pointing down, straight for Monterey. We flew at 10- 11 knots. We had to reef the jib but the wind had so much force on the jib that it was impossible to roll it up as we went down. Every time we crested a wave and fell into it’s valley the jib flogged so hard, so we pointed into the wind, as you do, to try and furl the jib, but the noise, the terror, the flogging, all created a scenario that had us reeling. As soon as we turned up and tried to furl the jib the wind pounded the sail, making it flog all to hell, and the flogging sail ripped the jib sheets out of our hands and the port jib sheet got caught under the boat. I had to hand the wheel off and make my way forward to removed the knot on the jib sheet to take it out of the jib sheet car to get it unstuck from the depth sounder that protruded the hull of the boat.
During this time the boat has come to a stop and we’re getting bashed by waves on our beam. We start the engine to keep her facing into the wind. I get the knot undone and the sheet untangled, and we furl the jib by taking the furling line to a winch, because even into the wind there was so much force on the sail it was almost impossible to furl by hand.
With just our mizzen out we were going a constant 9 knots of boat speed, still hitting 11 knots running down waves. It was terrifying. Add on top of all this our little 9 month old son, secure in his bunk, but screaming his head off. He is stressed because of all the noise and he sees mommy and daddy stressed so he’s stressed, which makes mommy and daddy stressed… it was just an awful situation for him.
We didn’t make it to Monterey in the daylight like we planned. We limped in at night, scared, and exhausted, and we didn’t feel so safe anchoring out in an unfamiliar waters during the night. So we called the harbormaster and secured a slip. We tied up to a dock eager to pass out. We were safe, we were alive, our home made it through nicely, and the first leg of our journey was now complete.