23 September, 2005

The Flood


When I was hiking in the Alps I met a girl named Kim.  We hiked down from the Augille de Midi together near Mount Blanc.  Over the years we've kept in touch via the internet.  Now she is living in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco.   It has been years since we've been this close together.

This weekend she came down for a visit and a sail.  I hadn't sailed the boat since my arrival three weeks ago—I'd say I was due.   We hit the store for some lunch and prepped the boat.

I should say I prepped the boat, and not such a good job at that.  I was rushing about so she wouldn't have to wait around.  Eventually we started the engine and dropped the mooring line (I set a semi-permanent anchor.).

The wind was picking up and we could just barely handle full sail.  We really needed to reef, but there were boats all around us and we didn't really feel like we had the room.   So we headed out into the Bay, the tiller a bit heavy due to all the canvas, but we were howling along.

For some reason I continued to fight the urge to reef.  I am no longer sure why, be it that it was going to be a hassle, or I was simple lazy—I don't know.   The sail would have been much more relaxing had we reefed.  We didn't.

It seemed that the wind was still picking up.  When we were coming back to the anchorage and it was about time to drop sails, I realized it was time to do precisely what I had been avoiding—heaving-to.    I didn't have to, but for some reason I felt that Kim ought to experience it.  But with full sail and this much wind, we were going to get knocked down rather hard when the wind backed the sails.   (Why I didn't just have Kim point the boat up into the wind I have no idea.  That would be the normal way of things.)

But this day was just a bit odd.  I don't know what I was thinking through out it.

I told her it would be a bit violent.

And even to my surprise it was.  The wind knocked the boat way over, farther than it has ever gone before (I also didn't have the centerboard down).   Water spilled over the coamings, a first.  She took it well but was a bit surprised. 

I went forward and doused the jib and all went back to rights.  However, as I was forward with the jib, I heard Kim say, "Water is getting into the boat."   I could only assume she was referring to the water spilling over the coaming into the cockpit.  I thought nothing of it.

It was only after we had dropped all sail and were motoring toward the harbor that she again mentioned that water had come into the boat—through the port light.   I looked through the hatch and sure enough, to my dismay, the port lights were wide open.  In my rush to prep the boat I had over looked them.

It occurred to me that this was hilarious—I could visualize a firehose of water blasting in through the window and into the bilge.   What a gas!  Sure enough the bilge was filled to the brim. 

Amazing, what a numb-skull I am.  There are so many things to do to get ready to sail, and I botched it up a bit.   But I didn't reckon it was all that serious.  The water seemed to have went straight to the floor.


The rest of the day was fine.  We went out to a fine fine dinner, a Indian joint.   It was only that evening after Kim had left that I started realizing how "un-funny" my flood had been. 

The bottoms of many books were wet.  My tool locker was drenched.  Every map I had was saturated.  All my cds/dvds were soaked in salt.  This was going to be a drag to clean.  At first I thought I could simply dry them, but that would leave them covered in salt and they would scratch.  Each cd had to be bathed in fresh water, then dried.   The case itself was ruined.

For a while I was rather bummed, cleaning tools, cds, dumbing bucket after bucket of salt water out of my forward, non-draining bilges.   But it soon occurred to me how amazing lucky I had been.

If this event had occurred to my starboard side instead of my port side, as it had, I would have lost my computer, my two camera's, my inverter, my battery charger.   In short, everything electrical is on the other side of the boatl—and vulnerable.  I would have been wiped out in one stroke.

I had never concived anything like it.  I had no idea how vulnerable I was to total disaster.   I was so so near.  I am so lucky to learn what I have.  The cleaning has taken several days.  I have a new colony of flies.   But the lesson is well learned, yet the chances that need to be made are not yet clear.

Also the importance of an easy, clean reefing system are also appearant.  If I had had a reef in none of it would have happened to begin with, and maybe the lesson would never have needed learning.   But it seems it does.  Meanwhile, my bilges are getting a thorough scrubbing.  War is declared on the flies and the books and charts are drying in the sun and breeze.

The Flood

San JoseSanta Cruz


On the morning of my birthday (Sept 20)  I awoke with a call from LeAnne.   Her mother-in-law lives in San Jose and she had brought herself and her two kids from Twin Falls Idaho to visit her for a couple of weeks.  We haven't seen each other in a year.

She told me her mother-in-law, Lavon, would be in San Francisco that day, and if I wanted to, I could meet her in the city and get a ride to San Jose to stay for a couple of days.   Seeing as I didn't have to work until Saturday at the earliest, and it being Tuesday, and my birthday, it sounded perfect.

Leaving my boat to dry, I hopped the ferry and met Lavon on time.  We enjoyed the long drive to San Jose with good conversation—we had never really had time to talk much before.

Her house was beautiful.  We pulled into the drive and LeAnne, Alissa, and little Elijah stepped out of the door.   Elijah, only four, I had never met before.  Alissa was a year and a half.


The afternoon was spent talking and catching up.  She gave me a long needed haircut.   For dinner we had salmon and wine and LeAnne had baked me some brownies for a b'day cake.

The next day we took Lavon's car to Santa Cruz with the kids.  We walked the town and went to the beach.   We could hear the barks of the seals from far away on the wharf.  I felt like a dad-for-a-day.  The kids were good and we were back by early afternoon.   Lavon had a meeting or something of the sort so she sent us out to sushi.


I left the following day by train.  It was Thursday the 22nd.   On the train I opened my book for the first time.  I am starting Lord of the Rings for the third time.   As I started the first chapter, called a Long Expected party, I realized that the book began on the same day, Sept. 22—Frodo and Bilbo's birthday.

It is interesting to start a book on the same day as the story itself begins.  It is almost ominous.    

19 September, 2005

check this out

I was to submit a story to this magazine.  Check it out.
I think it would be a good fit for me.
What do you think????

Jonah Manning
General Delivery
Sausalito, CA  94965
(415) 377.3985

email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

Rolling along

Got a job.
Visited an olf friend from France this weekend.  Went sailing.  Flooded my boat.  (Will be more on this soon.)
But the weather is finally beautiful.  My birthday is tomorrow.
I spent all day Sunday cleaning out my boat (because of the flood) and now the bilges are as clean as ever.  It has also helped in some major organizational concerns.
I finally got the solar up and running again.  This is such a relief I can hardly describe.
Though, now I realize that I burned up my starter motor on the Farymann.  It will need to be rebuilt.
It looks like I have crew for my next passage south, which will likely take place early November.
Sunday night I ate one of the best dinners I can remember, the last being the night Wendy took me out to Sushi Hana's.   THis was Indian.  Chicken Tika Masala.  The best damn chai.  Wow it was awesome.  Thanks Kim.  What a day that was.
Jonah Manning
General Delivery
Sausalito, CA  94965
(415) 377.3985

email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com

15 September, 2005

The world is glowing right now.
I think I want to go eat icecream

This is a test

I am trying out a new program.....I think it is working.
....I got the coolest phonecall today.  Loren Donwana, my old roommate from Spain and Antigua.  I haven't heard from him in years.

13 September, 2005

Wine Dark Sea

I have new contact info. I'm getting a POBox, but until then I am:

General Delivery

Sausalito, CA 94965

And I have at last given in and gotten a phone, one of those month to month deals, pretty sweet actually:

(415) 377.3985 USE IT!!!

And, before departing Port Townsend, I did name my boat.

The boat's name is Araby.

I decided in the end on a name that wasn't a reference to anything at all, not filled with secret meaning, not a metaphor—any meaning the name has the boat itself will create. (No, this has nothing to do with James Joyce.)


Wine Dark Sea

In the warm weather and fair seas of mid-August, three boats left Port Townsend for harbors behind the Golden Gate Bridge. On the morning of Friday the 12th Ben, Moriah, Phil and Katie—all friends of mine—set off in Hubris, Ben’s Bristol Bay sloop. I promised them that I would leave shortly behind them, hoping for a Tuesday departure. Everything seemed to be well in hand, with the lone and dubious exception of my only crew member being then in jail for a DUI.
As fate would have it, the jailbird dumped her boy friend and he was therefore anxious to leave Port Townsend. Seeing as his boat was not yet fit for the trip, he came aboard as a welcomed replacement. Unexpectedly another friend had come upon an old liferaft, an item I lacked, and offered it to me as a gift (a new 4-man liferaft can go for three-grand). Tuesday evening was spent fashioning a safe mount on my stern for it. We decided to eat a good meal, catch some rest and catch the five am tide out Wednesday morning—five days behind Hubris.
When I awoke at quarter to four it was dark and raining. I let Ozzie sleep and cranked the motor and threw off the docklines. We motored into the foggy calm morning heading for the sea.
No wind to speak of, not a whisper as the sky blushed. No boat or soul about. The tide took us from Boat Haven through Admiralty Inlet and out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tide pushed us mile after mile. Into the fog we rolled and out again. The danger on this leg was the shipping. All the freighters heading for Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver, ect all come through the Juan de Fuca. It presents one of the gravest dangers of the entire trip.

Before we had left PT, we had learned that Ben and Moriah had not gotten far with their five day headstart. As they had reached the Strait of Juan de Fuca they had been hit with thirty-knot westerlies straight on the nose. They were taking a beating and making very little way. They had turned into Dungeness, then Port Angeles for shelter. For all we knew they could still be there.
As we approached Port Angeles I got it in my head to try and reach them on the VHF radio. As I went below I heard Ozzie yell, “I think I see Ben dead ahead.” This seemed improbable and I didn’t really listen, not to mention look. “Hubris, Hubris, this is Araby. Over”—I called out over the VHF. To my delight, I heard, “Arobi, Arobi, this is Hubris.” (Arobi is what Ben and Phil like to call my boat.)
“Hey Ozzie I got ‘em on the radio,” I said. I wasn’t paying any attention to Ozzie at all. It was Phil on the radio. I asked them where they were. It was difficult to hear him over the rumbling of the engine.
Meanwhile, Ozzie was watching them slowly approach, me still totally ignorant. “Jonah, how do I get this thing out of gear,” he asked as Hubris approached, trying to slow the boat. I’m still below, Phil mocking me on the radio: “What’s your twenty?” I didn’t know what that meant—I assumed it was, ‘what’s your position.
Of course, they were directly in front of us. Finally I looked up as Hubris passed right by us, to my bewilderment. “Ozzie, they’re right there!”
What an idiot.
We pulled along side them and heard their story about the winds in the Strait and their long wait for weather. They told us we had only a brief weather window. The time was now. “We’ll see ya down south. Good luck,” we all shouted to each other.
That night in the Strait we were laid in a thick fog with freighters passing on each side, the fog horns reverberating through the stillness. I felt very small.

There was also another boat I’ve only mentioned briefly. It left about a day ahead of us, but stopped the night at Neah Bay, at the western extent of the Strait. It was called the Golden Rose. It was a pretty nice modern boat, expensive by our low-bag standards. I had only met the captain once and briefly, but as Ozzie and I approached the ocean, we should have been close behind them, no more than fifty miles perhaps.

By five o’clock Thursday morning with the rising of the sun Araby entered the waters of the Pacific for the first time in the saddle of the ebbing tide. The fog was slowly burning away. We still ran the diesel, having not found the north-westerlies that would bare us to the south.
For several days we had light and variable winds—sometimes contrary. Our course was exactly due south. We saw whales and dolphin. We ate well. We slept between nearly every shift. We were on four-hour rotations. Ozzie being a morning person and I a night person, we divided the shifts accordingly: I took the graveyard, 2-6 and he the early morning, 6-10. Everything else was manageable.
The winds eventually picked up on the third day and continued to grow steadily. With the wind came the chill. It was fifty-degrees and cloudy nearly the whole way (the wind chill near forty). We wore our ‘foulies’, our rain gear, whenever we were on deck. We both dealt with a bit of nausea though neither of us ever got very sick. Strangely, we sort of took turns and were never sick at the same time.
It was Ozzie’s idea to try out sheet-to-tiller steering. I had brought the few supplies and we had both read a little on the subject. The idea is to use the wind pressure on the sails to keep the boat sailing straight. This way, someone doesn’t have to be constantly sitting at the tiller. It is difficult to describe clearly but let it suffice to say that it worked amazingly, just a small line hitched to the jib sheet run through a block to the tiller, opposite some rubber tubing strapped to leeward. This was the great success of our trip. From this point on, we spent a bit more time below together talking about ex-girlfriends and existential philosophy. We had the sea all to ourselves. We didn’t see a freighter from the Strait to fifty miles out of San Fran. Washington was passing away with each wave.
After several calm days, the seas swelled and the winds grew to gale force. We reefed in our sails, then we went to storm sails: storm jib and a trysail (a try’sle is a very small main’sle without a boom). We hung a warp (200 ft of anchor line) off the stern to slow our way and to keep our stern to the waves. The waves rose behind us in long swells. The wind blew white horses off their peaks, but what was important was that they weren’t breaking—they weren’t the type of wave that a surfer would ride. If the wave doesn’t break than it won’t crash over your boat.
Still, by nightfall the wind was blowing over forty-knots. The standing rigging began to whistle and moan. We deemed it time to heave-to. Heaving-to is the nautical equivalent of putting a car into park. It is the safest way to manage a storm. The sails are balanced in a way to keep the bow pointed just off the wind (50 degree angle). The tiller is lashed and the boat slowly drifts to leeward (downwind).
This is what we did, more or less.
Unfortunately, we still crept forward a bit, allowing waves to occasionally break over the bow. This isn’t ideal and if the storm had been much worse it would have had to be remedied. But as it was, Ozzie and I both went below and hit the sack. We took it in turn to stick our heads out and check for oncoming vessels. By the morning the wind began to calm a bit. We unlashed the tiller, fell off, and pointed to the south, still under storm sails.
The weather calmed through the day but re-strengthened in the afternoon. The swells were too powerful for the sheet-to-tiller, but it was fun and invigorating sailing, the best I’ve ever done. We passed the night as we had done the night before, comfortable and hove-to.
As we awoke (not for the first time) in the morning I realized that the radar reflector, a spherical aluminum devise, much like a large crumpled beer can, had come lose from one of its lashings and was flailing about between the mast and the shrouds (wires which support the mast on the starboard and port sides). This would have to be dealt with. If left it would not only make a racket, but would also slice up the sails. But to manage it would mean going up the mast. It was still blowing a good twenty-five knots and we were well ready to start making some southerly miles.
At first I was not fully aware of what I was getting into. I pulled on my harness and prepared my climbing lines only thinking of the necessity of doing so. But my attitude would soon prove naïve.
Ozzie came on deck and manned the winch to hoist me aloft. I’ve been up the mast many a time, but none of those trips prepared me well for what I encountered. The combined strength of the rolling yacht and the high winds—it was all I could do to keep myself vertical and close to the mast. My legs girdled the mast like it was a polo pony, my hands worked the lines and gripped the shrouds for support. The higher I climbed the more I understood the desperation of the situation. If I were to lose control I would be flogged and beaten against the rigging with such ferocity that I would easily break arms or ribs. I had to keep vertical; I had to stay in control.
As I reached the spreaders and the flailing radar reflector new dilemmas came to light. What now? I could hardly let go long enough to untie it, which had been my plan, and bring it down. I didn’t take the time to think about it at all. With great intention I unclipped my knife, positioned myself, and took two deep breathes. This must be quick. I opened my blade and with two slashes cut the radar reflector free to fall as it may. I gave no warning to Ozzie who was below.
Ozzie, however was paying full attention and with amazing fortune the reflector at once missed Ozzie, but landed in the cockpit—and stayed there! (Amazing, considering the wind.) I safely sheathed my knife and hollered to Ozzie to get me the hell down as fast as he may.

The storm passed. After that, we often sailed with reefed sails and fair to strong winds. It was cold. Cooking and taking care of “natural business” were a bit strained. (I have one sterling memory of relieving myself while hanging off the stern pulpit—but I won’t elaborate!) Remember, all I have for this purpose is a bucket. Everything inside was wet. We slept on the floor on foam pads in sleeping bags, often still donning our moist long johns. We slept hard, four hours at a time.
The days passed on. We assumed that in the calms Hubris had likely turned to their motor and would be far ahead of us. Phil and Katie had to be back to work very soon so they wouldn’t waste time. We didn’t know anything about the Golden Rose. If they were that far ahead, then perhaps they missed the storm. We wondered if they had been caught as we had and wondered how Hubris might fare? As fate would reveal once we arrived to San Fran, Hubris wasn’t hit by the storm but had run from it to the east. However, it was the Golden Rose whom we should have said some prayers for. They were closer to us and didn’t fare as well.
But from the wilderness of the sea we knew nothing of the other events that were unfolding at the time. We ate, we read, we lounged; becalmed, we even watched a dvd that a friend had burned for me. Being becalmed, the slow rolling seas were awkward for my stomach. We drifted ten to twenty miles BACKWARD. This was most despairing, like hiking the wrong way on the Appalachian Trail. Our trip was not a much shorter distance: all told, a 860 miles straight line.
For this distance, it should have been a 5-10 day trip, but ours was carrying on, both because of wind and lack their of. We spent perhaps fifty hours becalmed and thirty hove-to. We started to suspect that folks back home and elsewhere were starting to worry. Of course there was nothing to be done, we were doing well under the circumstances.

The sheet-to-tiller steering carried us well when the wind resumed. We had just over two-hundred miles to go. We’d make it Saturday afternoon, just in time to catch the flood tide under the Golden Gate. We’d be home. Richardson Bay. Sausalito Harbor. But nothing is ever easy. The wind died. The fog came. We waited for a few hours, but on the VHF we heard that a new storm was approaching from the north and would reach us by Tuesday. In the fog and not too far off the bow we felt the shudder of great fog horn as a freighter passed in front of us, nothing more than a faint aura of light in the night.
Before dawn I started up the engine. Becalmed and adrift is no way of defending yourself in a fog. We would make San Fran in ten hours or be damned.
We saw pods of dolphin again and some whales. We saw our first pelican. Some small birds came out and hitched a ride with us. Our first and favorite, whom we named Phil-bill-daryll, was our first and only fatality on Araby.
The wind never rejoined us—at least, not until the last moment. We reached the entrance to SF Bay just after one-o’clock. I was making the boat ready for coming into port. But as we approached the great bridge the wind picked up all at once. “Hey, let’s sail,” Ozzie yelled to me on the bow. “A damn fine idea,” I said, surprised he noticed the wind before myself.
I’ve never hoisted sail so fast in my life. The Golden Gate was rapidly approaching. We got all the sail up just in time to tack beneath the bridge. The clouds that had hung over our heads for days uncounted were all stayed by the Marin Headlands. The sky over the Bay and over Sausalito was blue and the water was silver-tipped. The Bay was filled with windsurfers and kite surfers, sailboats, motorboats, and everything in between. It was a veritable playground.
We found our way into Richardson Bay and onto our anchor without incident or problem. The trip was done. Twelve days—it was now Sunday. To our sadness though, we couldn’t find Hubris, our brothers, whom we wanted to hug and commiserate with. We scanned the boats and couldn’t make them out.

Yet we had some other cravings that needed to be filled: showers, pizza and ice cream among them. The day was still young after all. The boat was in order and the dinghy inflated and we were ready for shore by five.
We rowed ashore and found our way to a pay phone. We wanted to contact Dan and Sonya, friends of friends from Port Townsend. Dan had sailed his boat down last year (not without much difficulty). As we reached the phone, only then did we realize that I thought Ozzie had the number, and he thought I had it. We were a bit crossed obviously. We had to find it. How? Dan and Sonya were our only contacts in Sausalito. Who else would have it?
We were very short in that regard, but as fate would guide us, as bizarre as it was, as we struggled to find the number, as I talked to my friend Heath in Port Townsend, hearing of all the concern over our absence and delay, I saw a girl walk up to Ozzie. It was Sonya! What odds! She was just grabbing something from the store and recognized Ozzie’s shirt of all things. (Ozzie is a hard guy to miss: 6’4”, long hair, funny clothes that he didn’t buy.)

We got more than just our shower—which I could write an entire story on—if delight could be made into words, but we got the stories that had been taking place around us.
It had happened that Hubris had heard of the storm on the VHF and had decided to run for it. They had a two day head start and made it into safe harbor in Washington. From there they had to wait for a fair weather window. All in all they had been gone far longer than expected and Phil and Katie had to leave Ben and Moriah and head back to Port Townsend for work. This left Ben and Moriah the task of managing their boat alone and they decided to gunkhole, or make their way slowly along the coast going harbor to harbor. They had much fog and foul weather, tough bar crossings and some illness to boot. So as we arrived in San Fran expecting them in front of us, we learned that they were still in Eureka, California, still several hundred miles to the north.
This was surprising news, but not the greater part. The storm that they avoided had raised great concern for us. In that same storm the Golden Rose had met such strong wind and waves, the crew became so overcome with sickness and fear, that they had called the Coast Guard for a rescue. A helicopter came and airlifted them from their boat. The crew made it safely ashore and today the Golden Rose is still un-recovered and lost. It was last seen floating south of Cape Mendocino by a passing freighter.
With the loss of the Golden Rose, the question of our safety was exacerbated. How far apart could we have been? Ben called in a pan-pan, a “be-on-the-lookout” report to the Coast Guard. All vessels in the area were told to be on the lookout for a white vessel (my boat is blue) sailing from Port Angeles (we left from Port Townsend), bound for San Francisco (we went to Sausalito). The ineptitude of the reporting by the Coast Guard left much wanting.
So many in Port Townsend were relieved by our safe arrival. I notified the Coast Guard of our safety. The guardsmen told me, which he hadn’t shared with Ben, that the helicopter had actually seen us as he flew to rescue the crew of the Golden Rose. This may or may not have been the case.

That night we went to a bar and ordered a pizza to celebrate our success.

It wasn’t for another week that Ben and Moriah arrived. Their trip lasted twenty-two days. The Golden Rose is still missing.


Okay, that is the best I can do for the time being.

Sausalito is great. Things are coming together. Ozzie left yesterday. He'll be missed. Having Ben and Moriah is a joy. We've made some good friends and have made contacts for work.

It is expensive here, food-wise, our only real expense.

All is well. Take care and thank you so much for the concern and the thought as we traveled. It meant a lot.


12 September, 2005


I gave in at last.
A new phone, $40 at Best Buy.  No plan, just buy minutes.  It seems cheap and easy.  The phone has good reception.
Let's see how it goes.
So here's da new numerals:
Jonah Manning
General Delivery 
Sausalito Ca, 94965

08 September, 2005

new blogging trick

Tonight a bar-b-que.   Yeehaw
It is all slowly coming together.
BEN AND MARIAH are finally in town. Such fun we’ve had being all back together again. Jodi (a local) had a bunch of friends out on his boat and came and rafted up with us as we finished dinner on “Hubris”, Ben’s boat.
It feels too me like we are all old friends simply reacquainting ourselves with each other. Socially I feel so much more comfortable here. Dan, Sonya, Oscar, Jodi, Anton. Even just now a guy who works at a flower store, who used to live on his anchor, offered me his phone number if I ever needed somewhere to grab a shower. (He now lives in a marina and therefore has access to the marina facilities, facilities that they won’t let me use because I am not a tenant.)

I am finding more and more every day. I hope to secure a job soon. I am thinking of getting a phone—it is hard to acquire boatyard work without a contact number.
Things are coming along. I am happy and more relaxed than I have been in some time. I’m not being so hard on myself; I’m letting things happen at their own pace.
Which is good.

06 September, 2005


After a week of venturing about, finding the library, food stores, laundry mats, parks, possible jobs, friendly contacts, ect, I can’t say I have any complaints. Sausalito is fun, quaint, pretty, and convenient. It is Cali so it is somewhat expensive. But I like where my boat is—it is an easy row to shore. I have garbage facilities and everything is close. What I am lacking is a good bathroom where I can shower and shave. I may have to pay a marina for a key to one of theirs.
I acquired a bike from a friend but just found out that the bike she lent me wasn’t hers, but her roommates. Oops. She clearly didn’t ride it often.
The weather seems to be constantly breezy. Good for sailing, but makes for rather cool days. When the sun is out it is gorgeous. The lights from the city at night shine like jewels when I row home. All is splendid.