A Week of Sailing Firsts

Sailing with a bronze sunset leaving Avalon, Catalina Island.

Talk about sailing firsts!

Matt was fine.  I was nervous.  What if I get sick?  What if someone gets hurt?  What if I don’t pass the tests?  What if it scares me to be out there, isolated, with no land in sight?  And the worst of the worst, what if I don’t like sailing after all?

Our friend, Connie, says I am a what-iffer.  She is 100% correct.  What if, what if, what if.  (Connie proving her point in this fun article ~ A Reality Check of Sailing Full Time)  Is it a bad thing?  Yes.  It keeps you from committing, leaving you on the brink of yes and no.  Keeps you scared, unsure you are making the right decision and can be negative.  I never even knew it was a thing until she pointed it out.  *me whispering: To be fair, I don’t even say it out loud as much as I think it, so I am quite sure now it is a thing… a bad thing.  Shhh…

This was the first time we would be sailing outside the San Francisco Bay with no turning back, for days.  Sailing first.  There was a lSailing charts on the navigation stationot riding on this trip.  Not only were we taking a ton of tests, a conversion test from US Sailing to ASA, and certifying for three ASA levels, more importantly, we were experiencing for the first time what it will be like to sail 24/7 on a catamaran, for days and days.

We’ve come so far with the lessons and even putting a down payment on a boat to be built without truly understanding if psychologically we were there.  When we decided we wanted to travel the world, we came to the realization that a boat would be the perfect mode of transportation.  In fact, it was the only mode of transportation that would work for us, so we just did it.  We truly had no idea.

I just kept thinking about it.  What if I didn’t like sailing?  What if Matt didn’t like sailing?  Everything would be ruined.  All our plans and all our preparation, for nothing.  I knew everything would be alright but what if… I’m just saying, we are making big decisions.  Decisions that will change our lives.  I’m allowed a little leeway to what-if, right? (little leeway – a saying that totally makes sense now, lol).

Let’s go!

So fresh eyed and bunny tailed, Matt and I arrived at West Coast Multihulls on Harbor Island in San Diego, California.  We had the notable and uber experienced Captain Chas as our captain and instructor and our trusty crew member, Tim, who was also in for the certs, and us.  We all got along great and we were ready to go.

The Crew and Boat

(click the tabs)

Team Certs
Four side by side pictures of the crew
Captain Chas, Tim “Clutch”, Matt, and Emily
The Boat
Fountaine Pajot Helia 44
Fountaine Pajot, Helia 44
The Salon
The salon of the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44
The salon, love, love, love it…
The Seasick View
View from bed in bedroom on Fountaine Pajot Helia 44
Straight ahead was the head, just in case you were wondering
The Mood
Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 view out from salon
A sunset softly whispers mood on everything it touches
The Back


View out the cockpit of a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44
The beautiful view of where we once were


Day one did not make it easy to quell any of those what ifs, that is for sure, with what seemed to be 6-8 foot swells.  The swells looked so big and taaallll.  At first, it was funny.  I remember laughing in astonishment at the situation I was in, like wow this is crazy, heh heh.  I couldn’t believe how my stomach was dropping.  It was exciting in a way, a fun ride.

But after a bit, it became the roller coaster with no end in sight and no way off.  Then the crushing reality of, ‘wait, I can’t get off this effin thing,’ set in.  I never experienced anything like that before, especially one where there was no foreseeable end.  We could barely walk or move about and this was how we were going to live?!?!  Forever!!!

It was crazy.  I remember thinking, how can this even work?  How can we live without moving around properly?  It was just insanity to me.  And, I knew that it wasn’t even close to the worst it could be!!

Feeling sick, not new

But dolphins, a total sailing first!

Emily studying sailing charts by head lampMatt got sick.  Not a first tho because he used to get sick as a kid.  I felt sick to the point of mind as well, wished I had, but never did… you know… blaaa.  I hung over the edge, had that throat/swallow thing and everything, but nothing.

At this most dreadful hour (dramatization: back of hand on forehead, eyes closed), clinging to the side of port sugar scoop, a huge pod of dolphins showed up!  What seemed like a hundred!

This totally was a first!  Sure as shit, I scooched my sick ass up to the forward port hull and watched them play.  I was really surprised how big they were and how fast they swam.  Like really fast!  And really big!  Just as everyone has ever said, it was an amazing treat and was deeply appreciated.  Just too bad Matt was sleeping inside because that was the only time they came around.

Later that day, thankfully, we both rallied.  We took the scopolamine patch, a first, the day before just in case.  We were taking exams and didn’t want to be out of it if we should get sick.  A good choice.  Even though we both felt sick, we contribute the rally the same day to the patch.  It likely could have been much worse otherwise.  If you have heard a side effect of using scopolamine is dry mouth, it is correct.  *lips smacking  Blaa!

So, so many sailing firsts

Dana Point, California anchorage at sunset
We wanted to stay but the anchor said no!

Heading directly into the wind, we were unable to hoist our sails, bummer, so we motored north to Dana Point, CA.  After dragging the first anchor, we dropped our hook around the corner and did an overnight anchor watch, a first, just in case.

Dana Point California anchorage on a foggy morning
This majestic morning… the fog, the fresh air, the gentle light, so calm and peaceful… pic doesn’t capture your senses.

We woke up to such an incredible treasure of a morning.  So unexpected.  You just wanted it to stay like that forever and breathe in the fresh air and live in peace.  The people who live there must love it!

Still motoring, we arrived before sundown to Avalon on Catalina Island.  We radioed in, a first, to get assigned a mooring, a first, used a mooring pickup pole to help moor, a first, and then a dude came along side to seal the deal, a first.  It was cool to see it all go down.  This was all new to us and very interesting.  Silly to find it so cool but it was.

Avalon wasn’t a first, but it was a sailing first.  We both have been there before, but the way we felt looking at it as the destination of an accomplishment was an entirely new and wonderful first.  No dinghy, so we water taxi’d over to the island for some pizza and beers.

Water taxi from boat… a first.  It was definitely strange leaving the boat there.  I can only imagine what it will feel like to leave our boat that first time.  What if it gets robbed?  What if we find it banging around on the rocks or into other boats?  What if it isn’t even there when we get back?  I’m serious!!!  hahaha

Avalon, Catalina Islands, California

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Boaters See...
Colorful hillside of Avalon Harbor California
A sea(?) of color…   *warning I have a very dry sense of humor that I find hill-arious, just saying

Townsfolk See...


Avalon, Catalina Islands, California, Beach view
The island is so small, there are almost no cars, just golf carts.
Beachcombers See...
Beach at dusk on Catalina Island, Ca.

Boat Leavers See...
Leaving Helia 44 at mooring with moody sunset
Felt like this sunset leaving the boat.

Getting into the rhythm

Every night and every morning we studied or worked on our exams.  With all the sailing firsts and classes, it was quite a jam packed session!  Team Certs did great tho.  We were all glad we studied as hard as we did before we left.  Matt and I spent every available evening and weekend for a month!  And it sure did pay off.  We never would have had a clue otherwise.

Matt, Capt. Chas, and TIm over some sailing charts

After another exam, we busted out our sails and sailed something like 11 hours to Mission Bay.  It was a breeze actually.  (Puns, I’m a fan.)  It was fabulous to have the sails up finally and the seas were pleasant.  We turned on some tunes and kept watch as autopilot served us well, a sailing first.

As a crew of two eventually, autopilot will be beyond its weight in gold.  It is like having a virtual crew member.  So many apps tho!  So, so many… Anybody can make a decision but using the info available allows you to make a good decision, which keeps everyone safe.

The rhythm of the night

As night came upon us, we all sat in the back deck and watched as we sailed away from where we once were just the moment before.  The water was so beautifully silver, glimmering in the last bits of light, wow.  It looked like liquid mercury moving about itself.  It really was fascinating and dangerously enticing.  Makes me think of Ulysses and songs of the sirens.  What if there were no sirens after all?  What if the music you hear is only a sweet memory and the hallucinations of a mesmerizing jumping sea that drives you mad with longing?  Hmmm.  I can believe it…

Needless to say, 11 hours, we did some night sailing.  We learned a little thing or two about swing room when anchoring with monohulls, a sailing first, at our next anchorage.  Good learning lesson because Matt and I felt there was enough swing room.  We didn’t realize the magnitude of swing needed when monohulls and multihulls are together.  We eventually found a great spot but took bearings to monitor for drag, just in case.

Mission Bay panoramic from the boat

Last Leg

Our last leg would be a short one.  We had the exams out of the way but had some last details to finish for certifying for catamarans, so we decided to get it done.  MOBs.  Anyone who has ever taken a sailing course knows MOBs.   Anyone who owns a boat should know MOBs.  These are man overboard practice drills.  They are very touchy maneuvers that take a lot of practice.  These are not a sailing first.

Well on this fine day, I nailed my MOB, in a catamaran mind you, which is a first, on the first try.  Nailed it!  We did the figure 8 rescue and I, wait for it… nailed it.

My compadres?  They did OK.

Catamarans can be real tricky because you can’t see the opposite side of the helm at all, like almost zip.  It takes a lot of practice to visualize how everything would go down to make a pickup on the port side with a starboard helm.

That being said, I will admit, it just so happened that I had Bob (MOB) on my starboard (but really I’m only down playing it now because I feel bad having said ‘I nailed it’ so many times even tho they had opportunities for a starboard pickup as well, just sayin).  I just so happened to nail mine, that’s all.  Just nailed it.  Pew! Pew!  I know some instructors at OCSC that would be giving me the nod right now.

There can be only one…

It’s just the beginning

There were so many sailing firsts on this trip.  Too many to list.  The bottom line is as much as it was an eye opener, we are even more resolved to setting sail on Sea Odyssey.  No more doubts and hopefully I can chill with the what-ifs.

No promises tho…


Multicolored sunset in San Diego California
What if this is going to be the best thing ever! Yeah, a bit cheesy, but I’m serious!!



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