“Opening up the hatch was like opening up Pandora’s Box. The wind outside was gusting past 40 miles an hour and the howling of the wind in the sails and the huge monstrous waves crashing against the boat was frightening.
I went outside feeling like I was entering a war.
Immediately I found myself literally having to hold on for dear life as I had to CLIMB up the cockpit to reach the tiller. The boat was healed over 45% at least. I climbed into position and clicked my life tether in.
Brad’s face was pale white and I honestly had never seen him like this before. I carefully moved into position to take over the steering. I could tell Brad was very cautious in giving over the tiller as one wrong move and the boat would be capsized. But Brad’s need of rest overcame everything else and he moved down into the hatch. “Watch for the the blue whale wall of Redondo Beach.” Brad said firmly before closing the hatch. “We’re not too far off now.”
I nodded in agreement and looked around me. But with the huge seas all around me, I very much doubted I would ever see that wall. Still it gave me an objective and an understanding of where we were – as honestly I had only the faintest clue. Suddenly Brad was gone and I was alone to face the seas alone and the lives of all my dear friends was now completely in my hands. Taking a firm grip on the helm, I soon realized that holding onto the tiller was hard. The pressure of the water and waves against the rudder was intense. It took a lot of strength to keep the boat on course. The waves were huge ‘mountains’ all around me. I could see the next line of waves coming at us with cascading white foaming tops high on their peaks. All I could do was try and aim the boat for the least menacing waves. We headed down the trough and the world was lost all around me. Only the tremendous size of the waves surrounded me. I remember one dangerous looking one in particular that was steep and cresting and thinking that it would be all over if I was forced to take that wave on.
Fortunately we passed it on by – as we did most all of the worst looking waves. I still believe that this was a matter of my efforts mixed with chance. And somehow afterward I knew God was watching over us too. At the top of the next wave, suddenly I was met with tons of water and spray. With the fierce wind hitting the boat, as we got towards the top of the wave, we sped right through the top of the wave and crashed right out of it and landed with a bang on the opposite downward slope. I knew this could hurt the boat and I wondered how much it could take! I tried desperately with all my being to stop this from happening and four out of five times I was able to slow the boat down enough so this wouldn’t happen. Despite all my efforts I could not prevent it every time, however. And as this all happened, water flew over the bow, washing right into my face. My tongue could taste the salty water in my mouth. At first the taste was welcome as the salt took away some of the over-taste of throw up still left in my mouth. As far as the wet cold water, I didn’t notice it too much because of my layers of clothes and the sailing wet gear Brad had let me use over top of it. In fact I was quite warm – except for my cold hands gripping the tiller. And so it went on for another two hours like this.
At first, the little sleep I had gotten had taken most of the seasickness away. But after a little time with all the continuous heavy motion, I began to get sick again. But throwing up was not hard as the boat was often angled at forty-five degrees and all I had to do was ‘aim and fire’ right into the ocean – so to speak and continue on. Actually, throwing up made me feel better – for a while. But the sickness seemed to always come back and soon I had nothing to throw up and I was just dry hacking. Still, I was in control to the best of my ability and there was really no other choice if we wanted to live. And then I noticed the mountain range near San Pedro. Very soon after this, I saw the orange fishing buoy (I had seen at night on the way out toward Point Vicente) show up atop of a big wave far in the distance. I now knew we were near Redondo Beach. This gave me a lot of hope!
At some point I began to notice that the waves were coming from behind instead of aiming themselves at our bow. I’m not exactly sure when this happened, as I was feeling very worn and fatigued after an hour an a half of all of this. I almost didn’t care anymore as I was beginning to lose it. But at least I still held on and aimed the boat in the right direction. Suddenly I looked behind and noticed a huge breaking white wave looming up behind me. I knew that if it caught up with us it would swamp the cockpit and tons of water would enter the boat. Already half a foot of water was in the cockpit floor, flowing back in forth with the motion of the boat (the water was half mixed with gasoline too – as the smell was horribly present. Hours ago Brad and I had tried to figure our where the gas was leaking from. The gas tank was clearly closed – so it was a bit of a mystery really). But that was the least of our problems. Thankfully the hatches were all closed and most of the water would not get in. But still I was fearful. I tried my best to aim away from the wave that was looming from behind but it followed us like a guided missile and soon the boat rose up to its ugly white head. As soon as I expected the horrible drenching, suddenly the boat’s stern rose right up on the white water – hardly letting an inch of water come in!
I was so ecstatic thanking God we had escaped it! We were closing in on Redondo Beach as I suddenly saw the blue whale wall Brad had spoken of. I could only see the wall on the top of the big waves though. It was kind of like being atop a big hill looking over the world.”
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