It could have been worse

“There is no hurricane coming, but it will be very windy in Spain.” I think Michael Fish, the weatherman, said on television before the October 1987 storm. 

The forecast models predicted maximum wind speeds of 22 knots approaching Cape Mendocino. So, as we motored out from Neah Bay to find the wind, we were looking forward to a bit of breeze from behind to blow us towards San Franciso. 

It started well. The wind held steady at about 15 knots, climbed to around 20 and stayed there for a while. We gently rolled along with a poled out genoa and prevented main thinking that all is good, if not a little bit cold. We got into our usual rhythm of me going down below to get food and drinks while Maria sat in the cockpit with a seasickness bucket at the ready. Everything was fine. Until day three.

Things took a turn for the windier in the middle of the night. And in a very short time, the forecasted gentle 22-knot wind morphed into a 45-knot gale. A force nine on the Beaufort Scale if you prefer. I would have preferred it to be a gentle force 7. It became very nasty out there. We never witnessed seas a big as that on either our Atlantic or Pacific crossings.

Michael fish was our weatherman

Can’t tell, but it’s lively

And the wind stayed like that for a long time. By now, we had shortened sail, completely furled the main, and rolled in the genoa to only a scrap of material.

Pole dancing

The poled out genoa worked great while the winds were sensible, but not so much in a strong gale. No sooner had I thought about tightening up the lines supporting the pole, a wave caught us broadside backing the sail and ripping the smaller of the two poles out of the mast. If I had been out there tightening the lines, I would have likely lost my head. 

We then set about dealing with the pole still attached to the genoa sheet, dragging at a speed of knots along the side of the hull. Our concern here was twofold: the risk of a hull puncture and the cost of replacing the larger of the two poles – either providing sufficient motivation. So, both of us clipped on and got on the case. With adrenalin-fuelled strength, I lifted the pole out of the water, Maria grabbed the other end, and we lashed the pole to the deck.

It’s a good job we performed that renaming ceremony. It could have been a lot worse.

Let’s Buy a Campervan

Times like that make us wonder what we are doing this for. Getting bashed around in the cold and wet are things even a masochist would find hard to enjoy. A campervan would, we thought, be a much better proposition. 

But then, as we turned into San Francisco Bay and saw the Golden Gate Bridge loom out of the mist, we were reminded of why we continue to sail. The bridge is a magnificent sight from any angle, but you would never get this view from a camper van unless you did a Thelma and Louise:

Michael fish was our weatherman


Michael fish was our weatherman

Near it

Michael fish was our weatherman

Under it

Michael fish was our weatherman

Through it

Trying to squeeze into your 20-year-old self’s trousers.

Finding a parking spot in San Francisco was a bit tricky. Many of the marinas here are limited to 6 feet draft. That wouldn’t have been a problem on Lady Jane with her 5-foot keel, but we didn’t have many choices with almost 7 feet under our waterline.

Fortunately, Steve and Liz on Aloha helped us by pleading our case to the folks at Grand Marina in Alameda. When we contacted Grand Marina, they were full. But, after some positive persuasion on the part of Steve, they moved things around and found a berth large enough for us to squeeze into. Just. It was like trying to squeeze your size 36 waist into a pair of size 28 trousers. But after three attempts and some much-needed help on the dock, we wrangled Jamala into her berth, and here we stayed for a month.

Michael fish was our weatherman

Jamala squeezed into her berth – and a bit of bike fixing