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Scuttlebutt News Center:

A Letter to the Editor - The Disastrous Delivery

Curmudgeon’s Comment: We get a lot of mail at Scuttlebutt World Headquarters. Sometimes too much to print, other times just not appropriate. This letter is probably somewhere in the middle. We have withheld the names to protect the innocent (and ourselves), but it came from one of our favorite readers, himself an acclaimed sailor having an Olympic medal, an America’s Cup victory and a couple world championships to his credit. Hopefully a lesson or two can be learned here.

Heh Curmudgeon, I received this message from the guy who taught me how to sail. Talk about a glutton for punishment! Thought it was amusing enough to pass along to the Buttheads:

I returned last night from five days of hell. Attempted to deliver a Cal 39 from LA to San Francisco. The boat was very well set-up and equipped, and the new owner and his friend were the crew. Neither had ever been to sea before, although they were eager to see what it was like.

Out of the harbor Saturday afternoon at 1300 and tacking up the Santa Barbara channel with 20-knot headwind and sloppy seas. Late at night the first evening the GPS showed us heading at the pinnacle west of the westernmost of the Channel Islands. So tacked back up towards Point Conception for six miles, tacked back out at the shipping lane, then went to bed to let them steer.

Awakened by their tacking the boat - to avoid the pinnacle! Almost a 180-degree tacking series, and six hours of beating with about a five mile gain! They can't steer! So we continued offshore with 25-30 knots on the nose, one reef and a tiny headsail. We tacked back the next day into shore, attempted to start the engine but no joy. Supposedly it had been completely checked out before leaving. Also, we found that while it had been running, it wasn't charging the four huge 6-volt batteries.

So now I am at sea in tough conditions with a very seasick and incompetent crew and no place that I can remember well enough to sail into. So on up the coast, becalmed at dawn off Morro Bay, and called my wife on the cell. She was at work by that time and so I left a message. She is pissed because the message was unclear. Four days later she was tempted to call the Coasties but realized that, 1. She did not know the boat's name; 2. She did not know the name of either of the guys; and 3. She did not know when we left, or from where.

As we left Morro Bay with a very light Easterly, the weather report called for a southwesterly ahead of an approaching low. Hurrah! During that day it was raining buckets, but we had a SW breeze which built gradually to 25 knots until around noon. I'm having fun steering and demonstrating for the guys the techniques with minor surfs as the sea builds from astern slightly. I'm thinking that it is time to give each of them a supervised turn at the wheel when, within 30 seconds, we were into 30 knots of wind - from the NW again. World's fastest moving pissant low.

And so the beat goes on. Up the Big Sur coast, tacking out at angles south of west, depending on who was steering, and tacking back in after a few hours at angles east of north. Yeah, averaging 120-degree tacks, but I can's steer all the time, even though I tried. I had one 16-hour stretch at the wheel. Got some sleep when the wind died completely about a mile off the Big Sur coast and they went in slap-slap-bang-bang circles all night. But at dawn here it came again. I finally got so tired of looking at the Point Sur that we were never going to round, that I went offshore for about seven hours in huge westerly swells that thank god didn't break too often.

Only ran the GPS but the batteries were almost dead by this time. When we tacked back in, the wind gradually diminished over the night from the 25-30 knots we'd had all along down to 20, and also lifted us a little so that they could steer just about north. I got a few hours sleep but by just before dawn the wind dropped to light air, and these guys could not steer in light air at all, and so they woke me up. We were in the mouth of Monterey Bay and on course in light stuff for Santa Cruz. I felt really confident of my ability to sail into that harbor and go alongside a dock with the crew I had without killing anyone.

Took all AM to get close enough to call them on the handheld VHF we had for backup, only to find out that the harbor was completely silted in! The guy at Vessel Assist was terrific. The Vessel Assist boat couldn't even get out of Santa Cruz Harbor, so the guy called down to Moss Landing to let them know we were on the way. So for the 12 miles down to that harbor we sailed in a light easterly - on the nose, of course - where by the time we arrived we had a stiff 15 knots from the stern. Ran fast, almost overtaking a big fishing boat into the harbor, spun to weather and dropped the sails.Had the Harbor Patrol guy tied alongside to power us to a side tie - third boat out - against two fishing boats at the boatyard facility. That's where we left her for repairs.

A friend drove down in my truck and rescued us. Man, I'm sore all over. I wonder if in a couple of weeks I'll be willing to finish the delivery. To give my two crew due credit, they were champs, learning fast and forcing themselves to work even though horrifically seasick for the first three days. The owner, in particular, was on his cell telling people that he had just had one of the great experiences of his life - and this is a guy who did three tours in Nam as a corpsman with the marines. Sailing is fun!

                                                                                                                                                                           
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