Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Epic Moments

I've often thought that much of life that you remember most, are the really great moments - the Epic Moments.  Hopefully they are mostly positive, but inevitably they also are related to many other emotions.  In any case, the thing these moments all have in common is the intensity of the emotion - its when your neurons are firing on every cylinder and you feel completely ALIVE!

My memory is fading as I get older, but I distinctly remember certain things, like diving off a 10M high dive in Switzerland with my brother Mike, or having a baby octopus grab my leg in Greece when I was young, or even recently, specific moments of hiking a Boy Scout 50 miler with Tristan.

A big part of the reason that I wanted to do this trip, is to have more Epic moments, by myself, but more importantly, with my family.  Our trip is only 6 days old, but I've had several Epic moments already.

I had been tracking the California offshore weather for about a month, and knew that things went in cycles depending on storms off the northwest, and what flowed down to California.  I picked our departure date based on a decent looking window that had at least some wind to get us down the coast.   As you've no doubt read already- we had a great first 24 hours, and a wilder second 24 hours as conditions got more aggressive outside of the forecast.  

My first Epic moment occurred on our second night, probably around midnight or 1am.  I woke up from a brief nap, looking to relieve Heather or Mykaela from watch, and it sounded like the wind had picked up from 10-15 knots to 15-20 knots.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Lexi sitting next to Heather on the helm and the moon had also come out.  Lexi had taken a long nap and was wide awake keeping Heather company.  The night was surreal - as the prior day's low overcast clouds started to part, and whispy clouds let an almost full moon shine through.    The light reflected off the waves, and our sail shone bright.  The boat was happily cruising down the waves doing 9-10 knots, and we were making great progress.  Going in to this, I know we all had some apprehension about night watches, but in many cases, they can be absolutely beautiful, and many times a great chance to think or wonder.  I loved that Lexi was experiencing this awesome feeling, and that we were together - we talked about the moment, and it was evident she felt it as well.   That was probably good enough already for an Epic moment - but I decided to take the boat off Autopilot (Otto) and to "play", driving down the waves at different angles to maximize speed.    After 5-10 mins, I asked Lexi if she wanted to grab the wheel while I was doing it, and a few mins later, I let go and let her take over.  It was awesome - to see your 11 year old daughter drive your 20,000 lb "house" down these ocean waves, fighting the wave's bite on the rudder, but not over-correcting so that we would gybe - and doing it competently over and over.  She initially had a tense look of concentration on her face, but after a while I saw the smiles sneak in...... Epic Moment #1 complete - I had a warm warm feeling in my gut and an immense sense of pride.

I didn't have to wait long for Epic moment number two , with a different set of emotions accompanying it.

The wind picked up over the next hour, Lexi went to bed, and the cloud cover mostly returned.  Heather and I huddled in our foul weather gear, sitting together in the helm seat.  I could sense her nervousness, as this was all very new to her, but she suppressed it well with her "I-am-a-badass-farmgirl-from-Oregon-and-have-seen-lots-of-stuff-and-I-aint-afraid" mindset.  Pretty soon the wind was consistently north of 25 knots, with some gusts topping 30. So much for that forecast.  I was happily impressed with how well the boat handled the environment, and the autopilot seemed completely capable.  We often forget that the boats can take a lot more than we can, and are designed for open oceans - our boat after all has made it half way around the world, being built in 2004 in Bourdeaux, France.  I watched the knotmeter start jumping north of 11, 12 knots very consistently, then on one wave Otto drove the boat down the wave at 14.5 knots. 

 A displacement boat's hull speed is the theoretical maximum speed it will do if unassisted by other "forces".  Our boat is a conservative cruising catamaran - most analogous to a decent performing RV or Fifth wheel (of which I know nothing about).  I believe our targeted hull speed is somewhere around 9-11 knots - but these "forces" were "assisting" our forward progress significantly.

I decided to take the boat off autopilot and enjoy the thrill of driving myself- driving boats down waves is awesome whether its sailing dinghies I raced in college, or our 47 foot catamaran in the middle of the night.  I started seeing a rhythm to the wave trains, as every 3-5 mins several swells would stack up together and then rumble through.  We weren't driving down steep, breaking wave faces like you would with a surf board - but rather riding along the tops of these waves as they would surge forward, with a little foaming white water at the tops of the waves.   A new wave train arrived and as the first wave lifted our stern,  I started pointing our nose down the wave accelerating as it pushed us forward, I headed up briefly before the next wave picked up our stern again and we start going faster, faster, faster.  The knotmeter raced past 12, 13, 14 knots---and as the last wave gave us one massive shove the boat really cut loose, noticeably lurching forward with a noticeable hum transferred through the rudders to the helm.  I smiled broadly as the knotmeter kept ticking 14, 15...17.7 knots! I let out a "Woohoo" as the numbers started receding.       

Heather and I stayed on watch together, vividly awake on short sleep, and kept the boat mostly on autopilot.  I thought I had notched the new boat speed record, but will publicly admit that Otto beat me 30 mins later, as he took us steadily down an epic wave train at 19.4 knots!  Knot in stomach? Check, Every part of your being on alert? Check, Feeling Excited and Alive? Check!  

Epic Moment #2 in the books.

Epic Moments come in many forms.  Two nights ago, while anchored at Catalina Harbor on Catalina Island,  the family huddled together in the salon watching the original Footloose off Heather's hard drive.  The older kids were engrossed in the hair-do's (that Heather proudly claimed as having modeled at one point) and the dancing of the early 80's - but Amaia was a little bored, and more interested in seeing the fishes off the stern of our boat.  Prior owners of the boat had installed underwater lights and the kids love to turn them on at night and see the marine life that collects around the light.  Earlier that day at a sportfishing store in Oxnard I had bought a few Sabiki rigs which are used to fish for bait fish- and she had asked if she could play with it.  After 15 mins of not seeing her, I tore myself away from the tractor "Chicken" contest on the TV screen and decided to check on her.

She sat on the stern steps, staring at the water, huddling with her knees to her chest.  With both hands she gently held the rod and stared at the 8 small hooks in the water- watching the fish dart amongst them, getting closer with every pass.  She bobbed it up and down gently, letting the lure dance underwater.  I sat down next to her, forgetting about the 80's, and took it all in.  The not-to-cold night air, her curly hair in my hands, and her "Ooohs" as the fish got close. I could have sat there forever.  It didnt matter that we only got nibbles but no bites all night- her smiles and contentment at this simple dance meant the world to me. I know its a simple thing- but I dont want to miss these moments.  Epic Moment #3

I am so glad we are on this adventure.... even though our freezer is broken again, our generator has now failed to start, and our port engine wont go in reverse, the important things - Epic Moments - are happening.

I hope you are all having your own Epic Moments too!  Please keep the notes and comments coming- we love hearing from all of you!

CHRIS   written in Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure what all the technical stuff means, but I'm with ya Chris!...Your badass farmgirl wife, Lexi's competence at the helm, Amaia's irrepressible curiosity, and the whole family's sense of adventure all add up to a boatload (get it?) of Epic Moments! This is absolutely what you should be doing right now. Glad you have the presence of mind to take it all in and appreciate it while it's happening. I think a lot of the high emotion memories that people end up with only stand out years later, but you guys are living in the moment and making the most of every day - and probably some other corny cliche things, but it's true! You are! May the blessings continue as you journey onward!