Sailing With A Bone In Her Teeth

The fog was tfiick enough as we crossed Santa Barbara Channel to make returning to my book the most interesting way to pass the time. While upon previous attempts Id found these kinds of antiquated stories rather diy, 1 had become riveted by Dana's adventures with the hide-throwers along this vciy coast in the mid-i8oos.

Chapters entitled "Monterey," "Santa Barbara," and "A South-Easter" detailed very dif ferent towns and people of over 150 years ago, but tlie geographical and climatalogi-cal features were identical to what we were experiencing firsthand. In the same way that standing in centuries-old ruins does, the book lights the historical imagination. The very same winds that howled around Point Conception on Dana's journeys were what we looked out for on our passage; we saw the verdant Monterey hills turn scrubby and dry by Point Arguello, just like he observed. And his descriptions of roaring southeaster made me think harder than ever about when and where we anchored along this portion of the California coast. It was like reading a cruising guide to the area (though it was written almost two centuries ago).

I was so glued to the story that I barely noticed when we broke out into some of the most beautiful sailing we'd had yet—with our first good look at the Channel Islands, Santa Rosa's rugged mountains rose into windswept clouds before us, while the midaftemoon sun warmed our boat and swept silver across the surface of the ocean. Small breaking whitecaps made the only noise a constant shhhh behind our stern as we floated toward the large and dramatic bight that was to be our resting spot for the night.

We had a couple of glorious hours of sailing "with a bone in her teeth," as Dana might have said, before it was time to haul in the sails and make ready to anchor. Unlike the Pilgrim, which (commendably)) anchored by sail routinely, our modern little 35-foot cutter Velella has the good ole "iron genny," making the job of anchoring incredibly simple. While good seamen all know how to anchor by sail in case of engine failure (as do we, theoretically), you have to admit it's not something folks routinely choose to practice. As I started taking in the headsail, I thought of the multitude of sails on Dana's tallship and the absence of an engine on that enormous brig, and f envied the incredible seamanship of the sailors who were forced to make do without all of our modern nautical conveniences.

WHAT WOULD DANA DO?

As Murphy's Law would have it, f had congratulated myself on our comforts too soon. Prescott turned the key, and we were given a definitive tttthhhunk. The engine wouldn't even crank, and we knew we weren't going to c 1

Polnr Santa Barbara

Conception r i ssri,a

Santa Roia

Ventura

Los Angeles

Long Beach

Santa Ana

Santa Barbara

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