NorCal Sailing

The north coast of California is some of the most rugged coastline I have ever seen. The tides are crazy and the water is cold as hell. Fortunately Humboldt Bay is the second largest bay in California, it and a number of lagoons along the coast provide excellent sailing grounds for smaller sailboats.

My buddy David, whom I have been living with in NorCal picked up a 1969 Cal 21 with a trailer for a ridiculously low amount of money right before I moved out west.

Dave felt that it was not necessary to have an auxiliary engine, instead relying on a single sculling oar. Having studied up on “Self Sufficient Sailor” by Lin and Larry Pardey,  we felt more than ready to take on the challenge of an engineless maiden voyage.  This youtube video is a good example of one way it could done:

Sailing really gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and the first few times we went out we learned so much. We learned that the disappointment of not getting to where you want to go is greatly outweighed by the necessity of getting to where you need to be. It is so frustrating to be within feet of your intended destination, only to be pushed away by wind and tide, unable to correct the course and make progress with the still limited power of heavily studied sculling technique (coughchrisandcatecough).

Having been put in the position of being run aground and the sun setting, Dave, acting as  responsible captain donned a wetsuit and plunged into 50 degree water an attempt to raise the drop keel by reconnecting the keel winch line. We had buried her in the sandy bottom with no way to raise her keel. We were fortunate to break her free of the bottom but unfortunate to break her rudder pintle in the process. Luckily we were able to tie a line around the rudder through the broken pintle enabling it be be held in place enough to steer.

On a subsequent trip after moving the boat to the boat ramp to be pulled to fix the issues caused by running aground, I made a notable mistake. Dave’s Cal 21 weighs much less than my Bristol 27 and when stepping from the Cal to the dock the Cal moved swiftly away causing me to step halfway between the dock and boat. I slammed my side/chest into the dock in an attempt to limit how much I got wet. Unfortunately I got completely soaked with 50 degree water and destroyed my iPhone in the process. I can confidently say it took more than a month for the pain of the cracked ribs to completely go away.

Regardless I cant wait to get back out on the water.

As many a sailor will tell you… “There are those who have run aground, and those who will run aground.”


About philipstrause

Sailor, Traveler, Cook, Activist....
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2 Responses to NorCal Sailing

  1. samantha says:

    i’ve been out of the blogosphere for so long i didn’t realize you were in cali. welcome!

  2. CnC says:

    Nice post, sorry to hear about the sculling issues.. (and the ensuing carnage! Ouch – both physically and financially ).. In the video, I like his technique but I am wondering if the scull is a bit short.. seems way close to the lee shore as well, I wonder if a port tack may have been in order first?

    I am on the fence about sculling as the optimal method for oaring a boat here to there. As of right now, we plan on rowing traditional style, with a sculling notch set up as the secondary method.. and you’re right about the time factor, going motorless means the first rule is you might not get back in time! Great post, hope you aren’t soured on the whole motorless thing … 🙂


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