Sunday, August 27, 2006


Homeward Bound

Good things only last so it was with pouting mouths and sad eyes, we left Catalina to head home. We decided to sail the return trip in 2 legs - the first leg would be about 45 miles to Dana Point harbor on the California mainland. Then day 2 would be about 55 miles from Dana Point to our homebase in Chula Vista (San Diego).

We motored for the first two hours, spotted a swimming sea lion (see pic), then put the sails up when the wind picked up as we rounded the end of the island. Then, it was a beautiful 7-hours of sailing to Dana Point harbor. In the harbor, we anchored next to a stunning 63-foot Mason ketch sailboat - sailing vessel 10-Forward (see pic). They hailed us and asked us over for dinner - what nice folks!!! We had a great time visiting with Ileene and Paul - owners and co-captains of this beautiful vessel. These cruisers commute up and down the coast of California, working part-time and enjoying the cruising life. We hope to meet up with them again sometime!

The next morning we set off for San Diego. The day started out calm, so we cranked up the massive engine and motored out. Large schools of dolphins were swimming up the channel between the island and the mainland. I know, the picture is terrible, but you get the idea. There were hundreds of dolphins - all swimming, some jumping, all totally ignoring us as we crossed their paths.

We motored along as there was no wind for sailing. The engine purred, then revved up all on its own, sputtered, and quit. Yep, quit. No go.

There we were, 9 miles off the coast of California with a dead engine, no wind to sail, and the boat bobbing awkwardly in the swells. Nothing to do but pull up the floor panels and deal with the beast. What was the problem? Were we out of fuel? Our tank gauge showed that we still had almost a full tank of diesel, but then it had always said that since we bought the boat. Was the gauge to be trusted? Was there a burst or crimped fuel line? Was the fuel pump dead? How long would/could we drift around out here before we had to call for help, get run over by a tanker or cargo ship, drifted out to sea never to be seen again, or crashed up on the rocks? Were we scared? Yep - no doubt about it.

Jones & Brett examined the inner workings of the fuel system, and discussed the appropriate method of researching the problem. Isn't it great having a professional race car mechanic and a brilliant young scientist on board? You should have heard them - approaching the problem with the "scientific method". They gained access to the fuel tank and dunked a long rod into it - yep, it was almost full of fuel. Good. Throttle linkage was fine. Fuel filters...hmmmm....fuel filters. The fuel filters were completely clogged with crud!!! No fuel could flow to the engine because it couldn't get past the filters - two different sized, clogged filters!!

What was I doing all this time? Do you think I wanted to be down in the bilge next to a hot engine, bobbing around the ocean with 2 frustrated guys? No way! I went up to the cockpit to watch for other boating traffic (OK, I was knitting - but really, I did look around every few minutes). But as I was knitting, I noticed that the wind was starting to come up. So, I took the helm and tried to get air into the main sail (only the main was up to stabilize us as we motored). We were moving!!! 1.5 knots per hour! A snail's pace, but it meant that the boat no longer was tossed around on the swells and it was more pleasant for the guys working below. Brett came up and hoisted the jib (front sail) - and off we went! We were making almost 5 knots!!!! I was sailing!!! All by myself!!! We were making progress towards Dana Point. Whooo Hooooo! We didn't feel so vulnerable - at least were were getting closer to home and help.

Meanwhile, the guys tore up the boat looking in all the storage cubbies for replacement fuel filters. Jones knew there were some on the boat somewhere - but were they the right ones? They found a large assortment of filters. Yep. Some fit. They drained some fuel to prime the filters, and 2+ hours later the engine started up. But, we were sailing already, so we sailed right up to the entrance of San Diego Harbor.

The sun set as we sailed along the coast. It was already dark when we approached the harbor entrance so we navigated the harbor channel 1 1/2 hours in the dark with, actually, some confidence. Thank goodness we had invested in the new chart plotter system! At 11pm, Jones, exhausted, maneuvered the Niki Wiki effortlessly into our home slip and came to a gentle stop. What a pro!!!!

Would we do it all again? YOU BETCHA! Our next trip is planned for the week after Labor Day. With a long list of systems to fix, upgrades, and other repairs, we are all charged up and ready to go cruising!!!

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