For Part 1 click here.
By noon, the visibility socked in, 1 mile or less. The wind increased its howl and rain poured down.
I was drifting at around 0.7 to 1.5 knots – too fast – so I wriggled into my foul weather, donned my harness and went on deck to deploy a drogue.
A short time later I brought in the drogue. The motion was jerky and making me nauseous. An hour later I wriggled into my wet foulies and went on deck to deploy the drogue with a different setup. Shortly after, I got re-dressed and brought it back in again.
By now the wind was fierce and the waves had doubled in side. Throughout the afternoon, I was bulldozed by water and jostled from side to side as I lay in the cabin. By then I was glad I wasn’t dragging a drogue, because when the waves hit, the boat bounced rather than putting up resistance.
Around this time, I started to regret having eaten the 800 calorie freeze-dried meal ‘Black beans and Rice with Cheese and Bell Peppers’ for breakfast. It would seem that eating beans period, before spending 18 hours lying down in cabin confinement with the hatch closed is a very bad idea indeed. Fearing that the beans would want to escape – and I would have to juggle squatting on a bucket at the end of my bunk, hoping dear God that a wave didn’t bulldoze the boat at that precise moment – I didn’t drink enough water.
Around 9PM the wind eased off (the actual wind), but this was worse as there was now nothing driving the waves. They rolled out of rhythm, the troughs deeper and my boat started to get side-slapped. While Rowboat (formerly Happy Socks, formerly Socks I) is not the boat for a northerly route ocean crossing, she is an amazingly seaworthy vessel. There was no question when the knockdowns came that she would sashay back to vertical. Inside I was dumped on my side, then rolled back into the centre of my bunk.
Throughout the night, the bump-jostle-knockdown-bulldoze motion was anything but conducive to sleeping. I lay and listened to the rain or the slosh of water in the cockpit sole after my bilge pump whined for its final time.
By 4AM the seas had flattened, the wind shifted to the south and I got dressed ready to row. A bird fluttered about on deck and tried to hop in the cabin. Swimming alongside to starboard was a large fish, 2.5ft in length. It’s eye, flashed green under my headtorch. The air smelt marine-y, of fish and as if to confirm this, gulls sat on the water on the other side of my boat. My boat was a shield for that fish.
Sitting at the oars, I felt woozy, weak, disorientated. I was trying to row in a black, horizonless abyss, sitting upright after 18 hours of lying down. ‘Let go’ I told myself. ‘Don’t try and grasp reality.’ ‘Just row.’
For an hour and a half I just rowed, the little black bird tucked under the gunwale beside me. Then at some point I looked down and noticed he had gone.
When day broke, I was not expecting fog. A foghorn blasted three times to port and suddenly it was like somebody had put a red hot poker up my bum! I was now wide awake, alert, and rowing at a good clip!
I rowed 90 degrees to the shipping lanes to cross both northbound and southbound lanes as fast as possible. ‘Am I safe yet?’ I kept checking the chart.
Halfway across, the sky broke and a deluge of water descended from above. I watched the rain polka dot the skin of the sea, the droplets making endless little craters. I thought a downpour that heavy would be brief, but it went on forever and I realised that my clothes inside my foul weather gear were soaked.
I crawled into the cabin to change and temporarily lost the will to row, as the southerlies continued to push me north towards Pt. Dume (appropriately pronounced Point Doom).
By the time I found the will again (dry clothing always helps) the wind had shifted to the west and it was time to ride them in!
Four days, four nights, 100 miles and it was almost worth it alone for the 20 mile surf in to Marina del Rey. I hit speed runs of 5, 6, and 8 knots! The fog began to lift and I could see land – Malibu and Santa Monica, but under the weight of heavy storm clouds, neither seemed recognisable. SoCal that day was a wild place, otherworldly with big following seas.
One last rain squall stole my visibility and soaked me an hour before the breakwater. ‘Really?’ I said to the heavens. ‘One last drenching?’ I stopped rowing to slow down. I was starting to grow concerned about my re-entry round the breakwater.
As I got nearer, the waves surged me this way and that. It was going to be a matter of timing not to hit the rocks or overshoot the entrance.
‘OK GO! GO! GO!’ I said to myself. I rounded. I was in. And there was a power boat doing a loop around the marina turning to make her lap back from the breakwater. An evening harbour cruise, one of many on a never-ending Christmas parade.
‘If only you knew’ I thought to myself looking at the passengers cosy inside. ‘The riches of what lies beyond the known.’