Sailing Mango

Short Tacking In San Diego

Me: "Crash Tack! Crash Tack! Chris, quick, haul in on the port sheet. Haul in!"
Chris: "Yep! OK, left. Or.. wait, right?"
Eric: "Yes, left. No... left."
Chris, concentrating: "Right... Scott, how far?"
Me: "Put the sail about eight inches off the spreaders."
Chris: "The spreaders..."
Eric sighed.
Half a minute later, Chris, smiling broadly: "OK, I’m there." Dimples flashing. "Hey Eric, pass me my Prosecco."
The three of us were spending a long weekend in San Diego, and hadn’t spent time like this together since college. I needed to spin the bits and bops on the boat, and we all needed some time away from the grind. We even got into a pretty good argument whilst pondering Newcastle Browns, red wine from the tap, and other such delights in Little Italy. Just like old times.
As for the Prosecco, Eric and I tried to convince Chris that sparkling Prosecco wasn’t really quite the thing for a trio of men’s men, sailing on the ocean blue. At the first grocery store we hit for provisioning, we convinced him that what he really wanted was a good double IPA. However at the second store, while looking for Eric’s hazelnut coffee creamer, Chris won me over with tantalizing tales of sparkles, kir, and liquid goodness.
At the time of the crash tack, we had just turned West after passing under the Glorietta Bridge, and began short tacking up the little dredged out channel in just about ten knots of breeze. Perfect. To either side of the channel was sand, but not quite enough water. We tacked up three or four times, and on the third the guys had it down, so I wandered up to the bow to ready the anchor. As we headed towards shore and shallower waters, I explained how the anchoring was going to work.
Me: "OK, so I’ll be at the bow. Chris, when I give you the signal you will steer up and straight into the wind.
Chris: "Got it."
Me: "Right, so the apparent wind, this little number, keep that at zero."
Chris: "Yep, right. Got it."
Me: "Eric, you will let go the jib sheet, and haul on the jib furling line. No the furling line. White. Not the sheet. Not that rope. Yep, that one. Well done."
Eric: "I’m on it Captain", followed by a smart, smart-ass, and smiling salute.
I was completely stoked to be anchoring under sail, and leaving the engine asleep. We have sailed Mango off the hook plenty of times, some of them were not good times to do so, but so far, we have come to no harm. But we had never sailed onto the hook, which was number 74 in my long list of things to do to be a sailor. Many of the things on the list I had never done, we ran out of time while cruising, and my window had closed. It was pleasant and satisfying to knock a few items off the list on this trip. Well, at least one of them.
Me: "OK, when Chris heads up into the wind, Eric, you will furl the jib. The boat will slowly stop, and because the Mizzen is sheeted in tight, we will drop straight back and I will drop the hook. The momentum of the boat will set the anchor, and it will be time to take a dip!" So much for theory.
Two other boats, a party catamaran and a motor yacht, were sort of close by, maybe one to two thousand feet away. The people on board were swimming, with loud music playing, and seemingly having a good time.
We crossed the channel marker, the depth came up to ten feet, eight, seven, eight feet. My nervous anchoring gene finally overrode my trust in the depths marked on the chart telling us we had plenty of room, and I called it.
"Chris, head up!"
Chris: "Heading up!"
"Eric, furl away!"
I focused on the anchoring, got the hook down to just above the water, and waited for us to loose steam. Chris called out "Uh oh, I waaay overshot." I looked back and smiled, waved my hand to say, "no matter". As the wind took the bow and pushed us onto the other tack, I lowered the anchor briskly to get it onto the bottom and arrest our movement.
The jib was still out, I glanced back and Eric was dutifully hauling on the furler, strained face and all. The breeze was a little breezy, and there can be a lot of force on the sail, making it hard to get those first few turns on the furling drum. Turning back to the anchor I dropped chain fast, knowing the hook was already in the sand. I must of missed the fifty foot mark, and stopped the chain when one hundred feet were out. Plenty for eight feet of depth!
The chain began streaming aft, which wasn’t right. Normally the chain would stream forward, away from the bow as the boat drifted back, and not the other way around. I looked around, and we had fully tacked, the jib was still completely out, back winded, and we began to sail.
"Eric, let go of the sheet! The sheet! It’s on the winch, cast it off!"
I wasn’t sure who was going to win, Eric on the furler now that the sheet wasn’t holding the sail fast, or Mango, hell bound to sail the anchor out of the sand, just as fast as it had been put out, like an airplane doing a practice touch and go on the runway. But the anchor held, Mango stopped short, and miraculously the stern, coerced by the Mizzen sail, began to swing downwind, and quite thankfully, we didn’t sail over the chain.
After the power of sailing with ten knots of wind, the anchor was well set. It was set the wrong way, but I wasn’t quibbling. We let the boat settle down, splashed the Prosecco and a touch of pomegranate juice into our glasses, and the three of us relaxed and basked in the sun, with our fine beverages and the swell of our accomplishment. Eric glanced over at the catamaran, did a double take, and deeply upset at how far away we were, demanded we up the hook and sail over closer to the lovelies frolicking in the warm water. I declined.
The bay was unusually hot, eighty degrees. Two years ago it was seventy at the same time of year. While unnerving, and greatly concerning from a climate warming perspective, we mused on the sad state of affairs, then jumped into the water and delighted in the bright side of imminent global metamorphosis.
Later we made lunch, laid on the warm teak decks, dozed a bit, and prepared for departure. We had a quick little conference where I explained each persons job, and we sailed off the hook as slick as a flying fish. We even took joy with having got off on the right heading. Our little crew was doing well, and we could feel fine about our accomplishments.
Indeed we were feeling fine back on shore, enjoying San Diego’s finest rums and delights, musing about our college days, talking about the latest news on all of our old friends and acquaintances. The long weekend was sweet, the weather fine, and our friendship was most excellent.