SOLO TO SOCAL "A
0AGE s Latitude
38 s *ULY
back 2 miles, and I had to motor and then sail through much of the next day to catch up with Ron, who had arrived at San Simeon more than 12 hours earlier. Plans written in sand. Upon my delayed arrival, I paddled my dinghy over to the beach to meet up with Ron, only to be swamped by a smallish shore break. It took me four tries to get back to my boat, each try requiring emptying the dinghy full of seawater. I lost a boot, my sunglasses and my socks. (The boot and socks I had taken off during the first dunking.) I finally made it back out to the boat — feeling very damp and a bit foolish.
"No man is a failure who has friends." Our next planned sail to the Cojo Anchorage just around Pt. Conception went according to schedule — that is, until the wind disappeared and then started blowing from exactly the direction we were trying to go. It ended up taking me four tries to tack around the point. A silver lining of this adventure was my seeing a whale breach twice against a stunning and desolate backdrop of unpopulated coastal mountains, cliffs and crashing waves. I then came within a boat length of running over what I think was the same whale, lounging in the waters just off the point. The Cojo Anchorage has been used since the time of Sir Francis Drake (he actually anchored there), and it is known to be safe in nearly all conditions.
However, before I got to the anchorage, Ron radioed back that our current wind-on-the-nose conditions were making this anchorage untenable. And so, after 24 hours of sailing to get there, we almost had decided we would need to sail farther to find a more safe spot to anchor. Fortunately, the winds slacked and then shifted, allowing us to anchor safely as originally planned. After I awakened from my three-hour collapse of a nap, the emotional crisis that had been brewing hit me. Even in the midst of all these great experiences, I realized that the sailing I had been doing was likely the easy part. It was downwind in the prevailing conditions and with the prevailing swell. I always knew that going back would be harder, but what was hitting me was that every mile I sailed farther south was digging my hole deeper, only to have to climb out of it later. Not only that, but it would only be feasible to climb out if the weather cooperated. If I tried to sail back with uncooperative weather, it would be possible but difficult, and likely very long. Back in the 1800s, it took Richard Henry Dana three weeks to sail from Southern California to the Bay. I should have known this better, given all the research that I had been doing, but even though we say we prepare for the worst, we don't always, do we? So not only was sailing back going to be hard, I had no real idea when it would even be possible. This was when I came face to face with the futility of planning. "Man plans and God laughs." What had I done? The beautiful Cojo Anchorage now looked like purgatory to me. (It helped that there
sailor's plans are written in sand." I'd heard this, but never really understood it. I understand it better now, but I've also come to realize that it is not just an aphorism. It is an immutable, indifferent and exacting law. Let me try to explain. I've lived my life under an illusion of control. I make plans. I work to implement those plans. Sure, things don't always go my way, but I've always been able to stay in control. Those who know me know that I don't drink. I rarely go into the reasons why, but at the core of it, it was my abhorrence of "losing control" and seeing it in others that made me swear off alcohol. And I like the sense of self-control. It's why I like big, long-term projects. They may take a long time, but if you stick to it you can complete the project. This sailing trip that I recently did (with the plan of cruising the Channel Islands) was another one of those longterm plans. I've been thinking of the goal of sailing to and cruising around the Channel Islands for about a year now. I've read books on it, talked to other sailors about it, and done preparatory sails. I looked for the right time and made sure (I thought) I had enough of it. Most of the trip was fantastic. I watched dolphins playing about the boat multiple times. I experienced the awesome majesty of the Big Sur coast. I surfed down 10-ft swells by the light of a full moon and steered to keep the backstay centered between the Gemini twins of Castor and Pollux. But there were many things that required a change in plans or even an outright abandonment of them. I sailed in tandem with my friend Ron. His Freya 39, Alpha Wülf, is larger and faster than Lyra, my Bristol Channel Cutter 28. On the very first day, we knew we would have strong winds, but it turned out we were faced with a Force 8 bordering on Force 9 gale. We had sustained winds of somewhere around 35 knots for a time, with gusts over 40! So, instead of sailing through the night as we had originally planned, we diverted to Santa Cruz for a couple of days. Plans written in sand. The next leg was to be from Santa Cruz to San Simeon. It went according to plan until it didn't. While Ron was able to make it in one shot, the wind died for me in the middle of the night off the Big Sur coast. Rather than hand steer while motoring through the night, I opted to go below and go to sleep. When I woke, I found that the current had pushed me
Michael La Guardia leaving Half Moon Bay aboard the Bristol Channel Cutter 'Lyra'.