Adventure lives outside of our comfort zone.
You’ll be hard-pressed to learn or accomplish new things by staying safe all the time. I like to make it a habit of pushing myself outside of my cozy, comfortable apartment – getting outside and working my muscles just past their comfort zone – my favorite activities that keep me engaged enough to distract me from the discomfort are: sailing, skiing, surfing, kayaking, really any ocean sport.
So, there I was, nice and comfortable on my couch, working away on my iPad one Tuesday when a friend texted to ask if wanted to sail her family boat from San Pedro to San Diego that Thursday night. I committed immediately and without much consideration for how much work I had to do that week. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule so I am able to smoosh my work around and adjust when a fun adventure such as this one comes up.
Double-handing a 50-foot, wooden sailboat overnight from San Pedro to San Diego (without auto-pilot) would not be the easiest thing I would do all week, but it would be the most fun.
I should explain a few things for our non-sailing readers.
- Sailing from San Pedro to San Diego may sound like a quick trip – after all, it’s only a two-hour drive. But we sail much slower than we drive – and our speed depends on the wind. We estimated it would take about 14 hours to get to San Diego.
- Double-handing means that there was only two of us on the boat for the duration of our sail.
- We sail at night because the conditions are generally calmer. It’s also easier to schedule the trip for those of us with busy schedules, and it means that we will be awake all night – because it is good safety protocol to have two on watch at all times.
A lot of people hear stories about an overnight delivery for the first time and their knee-jerk reaction is simply: no-way! Though I don’t agree, I can understand this response – being away from the dock is far outside a lot of people’s comfort zone, then remove the security, warmth and comfort of sunlight and I can see how this is a too little scary for some: at BEST you can expect to be cold, tired, and probably wet for more than 12 hours.
So, why do some of us love this so much? That depends on the sailor, for me: it’s the sense adventure, freedom, and independence. It’s relying on the sea, the wind, and whatever else you have on board to get where you need to go. I’m not the only one that feels this way, just look at the ‘Why Do People Enjoy Sailing’ post on Quora and this list put together by Summer Sailstice.
There is something special that happens when you get outside of your comfort zone – each time I do I learn or accomplish something new, and that is absolutely invigorating.
It’s Cold Out Here
The sun was setting as we left San Pedro, so I quickly added every layer I brought with me. I’m quick to chill and once you are cold while at sea it can be impossible to warm back up – so a sailor’s goal is to simply stay warm. Though it was a dry April night in Southern California, I was wearing at least two layers more than I typically wear while skiing in Canada. We took turns at the helm, and whoever wasn’t on the wheel was wrapped in wool blankets, out of the breeze, and warming up for the next shift driving. Overall we were very happy, we stayed dry – save for early morning dew and a couple waves that splashed on deck.
Later that night, a nearly-full moon rose and illuminated our course home, affording great visibility – we pointed the boat into the moonlit wedge of sea and sailed downwind. A following sea – where the waves come from behind us, pushed us along and provided an opportunity for some fun: downwind surfing under full sail.
Night sailing and cruising is particularly appealing to me because of connection to the sea and the unexpected encounters with the phosphorescent world that exists below sea level at nighttime. The hours just before dawn are one of the most active times on the water – and I find it nearly impossible to sleep when I have the opportunity to connect with another world. I can’t recall ever being more motivated to stay alert past 3:00 am as when dolphins are leaping alongside the boat illuminated by moonlight with the faint glow of bioluminescence in their wake.
Last Fall, on a different trip while cruising home from Ensenada, the phosphorescence was the brightest I have ever seen – at night we could easily see dolphins swimming underwater from hundreds of yards away – as the curious dolphins swam toward us at full speed, we could trace their glowing path for 20-30 ft under the water. Our cameras weren’t able to capture the phenomena, but I found YouTube video of a very similar experience.
It’s this type of rare, amazing experience that makes being uncomfortable for a little bit so worthwhile.
Our transit South was, thankfully uneventful and enjoyable – the high winds and surfable swell helped us make great time – only 13 hours total. Since the boat is equipped with AIS, a thoughtful friend checked in on our location at dawn – and she came down to greet us on the dock. After we tidied the boat up, we wrapped up our night-time adventure with a hot and hearty breakfast in the clubhouse – followed by a really long nap. Can’t wait for our next adventure!