We were approaching the ideal anchoring spot in the northwest corner of Pelican bay. As we chugged along, I readied the hook for its plunge and signaled to Susan to go into reverse. After a moment, instead of confirming reverse as usual, she yelled, “the shifter doesn’t shift!” In a flash I wondered if we should bail and sail, but it was late, we were tired, and we had an escape plan if I couldn’t fix the shifter: it’s a sailboat. We weren’t moving quickly, so I loosened the windlass clutch, let the anchor go, and scurried back to the cockpit to kill the engine. I went back to the bow, and as Frolic coasted into the wind, the anchor bit. I paid out chain grudgingly as the breeze stopped us and then blew us back. I put out a little more than 3:1 scope in 40 feet, and then increased that to about 4:1 with the snubber line (1/2″ nylon three-strand, with a chain hook). Once the load was on the snubber, and our position seemed secure, I let out another 30 some feet of chain, to encourage the snubber hook to stay down (and give some catenary advantage). Back in the cockpit I reconsidered the default plan to deploy the stern hook as is usual in Pelican; a stern hook would make it harder to sail out, and also important, there were only three boats in the anchorage, and all of them 200 yards or more away. We settled about 100 yards from the west wall, and more than 300 from the point. Since the wind waves wrap into the anchorage, a stern anchor can aim the boat into that and minimize rolling. But a little rolling can be comforting, and it was calm and forecast to become calmer.
And it did become calmer, making several days of gunkholing in our kayaks very pleasant. Our multiple paddles spanned from a little west of Prisoner’s to Orizaba. The water was crystal clear and not that cold. We saw quite a few small black abalone shells, but only one alive — a far cry from when they climbed over each other on the rocks in the tidal zone! Some of the shells had a neat hole drilled in them, perhaps the art of one of the many black oystercatchers that circled us as they sang their loud and shrill song. The bright garibaldis really stood out as they darted among the kelp fronds. And I saw a few striped bass streak by. Santa Cruz Island is a lovely place to visit!
Our impromptu sail across the channel had also been pleasant, with winds ranging, as usual in July, from iron genoa, to reefed main. The wind built as we crossed and, judging by the lack of swell, it was a new breeze. It was warm enough that I was comfortable in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, even in the wind. As the wind built, the advection fog thickened, completely shrouding the island in mist. As we approached the shipping lanes, visibility was only a few miles; we could see the west-bound ships, but the east-bound ones could only be seen on AIS. Unfortunately, this was literally true as, after more than 20 years of operation, our radar went kaput. Oh well, it’s only another couple of boat bucks…. Did I mention that our also-old, but much older, hydraulic backstay adjuster had blown its gasket a couple days before we left, and that Frolic’s mast was now supported by a new turnbuckle and a scrap piece of stainless-steel plate? Despite our inability to achieve perfect close-reach trim, we sailed nicely, pretty much at hull speed. Maybe I don’t need another adjustable backstay adjuster after all (haha). Anyway, we poked into Lady’s but the chop had followed the wind as it veered north of west, so we wandered down the coast and ended up in Pelican.
Our four-day stay in Pelican was thoroughly relaxing. We ate and drank well. Our love of the cockpit awning was re-affirmed. The solar panels kept the batteries full. I was vigilant in watching our position as I knew that, unable to shift the gear box out of forward, I hadn’t set the anchor as well as usual. Part of my piece of mind stemmed from that fact that, rather than eyeball, I could measure our distance from other boats and the rocks. Usually I’ve accomplished this with radar, but our radar didn’t work. However, that void was sort of filled, at least in the anchorage, by my new favorite toy: a laser range finder. I had bought the thing to help plan some development in a heavily wooded part of our property, by measuring between tall trees on opposite sides of the impenetrable area. This was the first time I brought the range finder sailing, but I think it will be a standard piece of gear hence, even after I have a functioning radar again, as it is easy to use and accurate (+/- a yard).
And what about being able to use the diesel to do something besides idle along in forward? Frolic’s Teleflex combined throttle and gear shifter appeared to have failed due to some combination of corrosion from seawater ingress and a loose set screw; in other words, a general lack of maintenance (my bad). The fix was fairly straight forward and didn’t involve too much boat yoga. By the time I was comfortable with the repair, I had disassembled the linkages, cleaned the corrosion, and lubed the morse cables and shifting mechanisms. I also topped off the gear box oil. Susan and I had strategized what we’d do if it came apart again while weighing anchor or after we entered the harbor. But we were lucky, all worked as it should and we had an uneventful motor-sail home.