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Posts Tagged ‘dolphins’

If you missed Part 1: Gearing Up click here. 

As we motored out of the Santa Barbara Harbor my apprehension quickly turned into excitement and awe.  I had never been on a boat out of the harbor before and I have never been on a real sailboat. There I was first mate on a two man excursion to hopefully score some worth while surf.

Cit immediately began teaching me the names of all the different parts of the boat most of which I forgot leading to his frustration later when asked to do something.  I did actually learn a lot.  I had three main duties: Cooking in the Galley, Operation of the Hook (anchor) and keeping our coarse with the till (long stick used for steering).   Occasionally I had to help raise and lower the sails as well and propeller kelp detail.

The wind was nonexistent for the first 20 miles and it is around a 35 mile shot to the surf spot.  We got a late start no shoving off till after one.  Due to the calm conditions we had nice smooth seas but no wind thus having to use the small out board motor and only making a progress of 5.5 knots an hour.  Slow and steady wins the race.

On the way out we passed buoys laden with seals barking at each other.  The funny thing is I can hear those same seals at night from the patio of my apartment.  It was nice to finally see them up close.  There were all these tourists on kayaks sitting around the buoy staring at them as if they had never seen a seal before.

After about twenty minutes Cit handed me the till and said keep our course on a certain compass reading that I am not going to give out.  It was a warm summer day making visibility only about 15 miles or so thus you could not see the islands allowing navigating by sight to be impossible.  I grabbed the till and at first it was very hard to keep the boat on course with out constantly meandering in a serpentine motion, pissing off Cit.  After about 30 minutes I got into a groove.

We passed the rigs and let me say they are not nearly as nice when you get up close to them.  Most are just weathered boxes on stilts with cranes hanging off them.  I don’t know why I thought there would be more to it then that.  I think I have over glamorized the oilrig life style.  After being near them up close it seems a very solemn life for only the most salty or hardened of souls.  Apparently the majority of them all line up perfectly when you are next to them and it is because they pump along an under water mountain range that runs the channel.  All I know is that I will have a greater appreciation of the rigs next time I stare off at them from the shore.

About 20 miles out Cit yelled “there are dolphins coming up the bow”.  He took the till and let me go up to the front.  I hung off the mast’s suspension cables over the bow and watched and listened to the purposes as they playfully showed us how more capable they are then us at sea travel.  The sun was shinning and the water was the clearest dark blue I have ever seen.  I could not see land on either side of us and I was enjoying the spray on my face as it splashed up over the bow and then trickled down my bare chest sending exhilarating chills through out my body.

I began laughing out loud.  Two months ago I wanted to kill myself over a woman.  A WOMAN! What a waste that would have been.  If it were not for her I would not have even been standing there with the realization of just how wonderful life really is.  The world is an amazing place and I think we get bogged down by life too often and forget all the awe-inspiring things it has to offer.  Two months ago if someone told me I would be hanging off the bow of a sailing vessel playing with dolphins I would have said he were crazy.

There are just so many moments in my life where I just keep expecting to wake from this dream I am living, but I never do.  While everyone else was at Emma Wood getting all grumpy and annul this is what I was doing.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Sorry I had to just chuckle to myself a little more.

 The King of Beers

At our slow pace, even when we were able to get the sails up we still only were averaging 6 knots, making the journey about a 4-5 hour peregrination.  For this duration Captain Intoxication (why he was garnished with this name) kept cracking and handing me beers.  “When in Rome”, plus it made the trip go by much faster.  By the time we got near the Island both of us were ten beers in each and thrashed.  As Cit put it “I may be a drunk captain, but I am a good captain”.  Honestly the guy really did know his stuff.  I was impressed.  Heck we did not die.

Unlike the rigs the Islands are a magnificent sight up close.  Most consist of sheer hundred plus foot cliffs made of black, white, pink, yellow, brown and red rocks, depending on the mineral type.  Some of the cliffs fall right down into the ocean, while others guard black cobblestone or black sand beaches with no other disturbance then the birds. Atop the cliffs are miles of tall yellow grass, cypress trees and just open space.  The whole area is a protected National Park allowing for no development.

There is wild life everywhere.   Seals swim in large packs, twenty or greater and jump out of the water in unison similar to dolphins.  Purposes swim around, sea otters, jelly fish and birds, tons and tons of sea birds of every variety.  It makes you think that is probably what most of the California coast looked like 200 years ago before man ruined it.  It was breath taking.

 Smugglers Cove

We pulled up at a “safe” anchorage, by the Islands standards.  All of them stick out in the middle of the ocean, where the weather is super fickle and all are uninhabited meaning no man made ports.  As Cit put it “we are pirates out here”.  Smugglers was a small cove semi protected by high cliffs on each side of it.  In the middle was this impressive rock/sand mix beach.  Up the hill from the beach was an old Olive Orchard that sill looked rather tame for not being manned in fifty years.  Cit said there was a ranch house up above the orchid as well.  Initially we were going to row into the beach and check it out, but it was already pretty late when we got there.  Then I cooked up some Rose Mary Chicken and mixed vegetables in tomato sauce.  After eating that and washing it down with the bottle of Merlot we were exhausted from the journey, good and drunk and with waning light decided it was better to chill on deck.

I passed out shortly after.  I awoke sometime in the night freezing cold after getting thrown off the seat I feel asleep in onto the deck.  Still drunk I crawled below deck climbed into my bunk and wrapped myself in my comforter.  In that position I stayed till morning.  Getting drunk off beer is a big mistake, probably my worst handover next to tequila.  Cit and I were definitely hurting from the previous night’s festivities.  The surf was on as we could see 3-4 foot south swells rolling past us and crashing onto the rock covered beach.

We hoisted the anchor, which by the way is a pain in the ass to do manually.  It takes so much strength to get the chain off the bottom and it is heavy as hell.  Not to mention it burns the fuck out of your hands.   We let out 75 feet of chain.  Hook detail fucking sucks and now I know why it is the first mate’s job.  Dropping anchor is a bit easier.  All you have to do is steady the line with your hand as it falls into the water to make sure the chain does not pile up on itself.  Finally it was off to the surf spot.

Stay tuned for Part III: The surfing, Island Adventuring and the Trip Home.

The rigs falling in line

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