Adventures in Sailing, Part 5 – Bon Voyage – Columba Sets Sail

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

Adventures in Sailing, part 5

At noon on June 22, 1980, we left Ventura for Hawaii, with a scheduled stop at Marina Del Rey to pick up Andrea, our cook. Friends and family saw us off on the dock and our actual departure time was 12:20 pm. I know this because I kept a journal. As I look back on this trip, my memory has merged and altered events and in some cases the images in my memory are more satisfying than the quotidian details of our trip. But truth and memoir are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Writing memoir is a lot like coloring. The truth lies in the sharp black outlines of the experience whereas the details can be colored in with different colored crayons, or pastels, or pencils as the artist chooses.

There were 12 of us, each with our nicknames: Captain Jack Mathias, Christy Mathias, Andrea (cook), Cloud (Ishmael — 1st mate), Dave (McGruder — 2nd mate), Don (Dandy), Sue, Karen, Linda (Lovelace), Tonya (Tucker), Gary (Geraldine), and me, Lee (Lee-bones, Riverboat Gambler). Sue and Karen were valley girls, thin and self-absorbed into sun-bathing. Andrea was a bit older than the rest of the crew, probably in her late 20s and I don’t remember her having a nickname. The three of them didn’t have nicknames. Gary, Christy, and I were high schoolers. The rest were 1st or 2nd year college students.

We spent three hours sailing against the wind and current getting to Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Island chain off the coast of California, heading south. We made our way around Point Dume near Malibu and headed inland toward Marina Del Rey where we were picking up Sue. We arrived just after midnight and then found a slip for the night.

We slept in and then washed the boat down in the day, went out to eat, had a visit from Mrs. Mathias and then headed off at 3:30 pm not to see land again until we reached Hawaii in the later part of July.

The trip out was uneventful. That first day, the winds died completely and the boat moved very slowly. In fact, we bobbed like plankton off the coast of beautiful Catalina Island. The sight I saw when I fell asleep was the same sight I awoke too. We hadn’t moved at all. The captain didn’t want to use the motor so early in the trip. In the sea, you live and die by the winds.

We spent the 2nd day merely bobbing next to Catalina, perhaps making 1/2 to 1-knot per hour. By the end of the day we began rounding the southernmost tip of Catalina and adjust our position to head more southwest than south. We were headed straight for San Clemente island, the southernmost of the Channel Islands.

San Clemente is a restricted island, used for Navy bombing practice. Our route took us directly into the path of U.S. Navy Battleship doing night time target practice on the southern end of San Clemente island, just one of the many mini-adventures of this trip. We would have a memorable encounter with the U.S. Navy.

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